229. (Erich Auerbach)

Is it possible to grow into a critic of literature? Immediately, the question ought to be revised: is it possible to grow into admiring another reader of literature? The answer is unequivocally yes, just as it is possible to grow into admiration for an author of imaginative literature. The difference lies in the means available for growth: we can learn to appreciate an author partly … Continue reading 229. (Erich Auerbach)

223. (Emily Dickinson)

To begin with recapitulation and self-remonstration: poetry must, in F.H. Bradley’s persuasive formulation, get within the judgment the condition of the judgment. So much is true for Donne, Milton, Clare, Browning, and Ginsberg, to sample from all directions. The interpretive task of a critic becomes not an explication of meanings or “readings” but a working out of the judgments a poet makes in the choice … Continue reading 223. (Emily Dickinson)

218. (William Wordsworth)

Perverse as it is to redefine words against conventional meanings, it is nonetheless possible to loosen from conventional meanings an implication that enlarges the significance of a word. The word “tact” seems to me susceptible to such an operation, where beneath its concern for social proprieties, for the embarrassment of others, and for good manners is a suggestion of tactility, so that the word might … Continue reading 218. (William Wordsworth)

215. (Marcel Proust)

In the fifth volume of Recherche, The Captive, Baron de Charlus refers to a visit he has recently paid to the famed writer, Bergotte, who has been for some time dead. Even after reading the explanatory note, I wanted to believe that the Baron was supposed to be shown in a lie, but even the aging Charlus would not commit such a blunder. Neither, though, … Continue reading 215. (Marcel Proust)

207. (Amy Clampitt)

Amy Clampitt’s “Nothing Stays Put” opens with an allusion to Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us,” and the turn her allusion takes is indicative of what she makes of the excess of the world: “The strange and wonderful are too much with us.” That line itself can be heard numerous ways: the description itself, “how strange and wonderful” is too often spoken and … Continue reading 207. (Amy Clampitt)

204. (John Donne)

An exemplary poem by Donne, “The Expiration”: So, so breake off this last lamenting kisse,      Which sucks two soules, and vapours Both away,  Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,      And let our selves benight our happiest day,  We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe      Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;  Goe; and if … Continue reading 204. (John Donne)

201. (Sarah Kirsch)

The 2014 Ice Roses: Selected Poems of the German poet Sarah Kirsch, published a year after her death (Kirsch was born in 1935), and translated into superb English poems by Anne Stokes, opens with “By the white daisies”: . By the white daisies In the park I stand Underneath the willow as he instructed me Unkempt ld woman without leaves See she says he isn’t … Continue reading 201. (Sarah Kirsch)