172. (Eugenio Montale)

  The Poetry Foundation’s website has a brief essay on Montale, helpful mostly for its generous quotations from critics and from the poet. The consensus among critics, unsurprisingly, is that Montale’s poetry is “difficult.” Here is Ghan Singh: Of all the important twentieth-century Italian poets Montale is the one in whose case it is most difficult to proceed by explicating, through definite formulations and statements, … Continue reading 172. (Eugenio Montale)

168. (Eugenio Montale)

I’m going to devote a few posts to readings of Montale’s poems from La Bufera e altro, Montale’s 1956 collection that I would be my 20th-century desert-island poetry selection. The collection was written during the backdrop and in the aftermath of World War Two; Montale was from Florence but spent time also in Milan. Many of the poems are addressed to a female presence–Clizia, sometimes called … Continue reading 168. (Eugenio Montale)

155. (Christopher Smart)

Who are the major poets who have not excelled in something that might be called “light verse”? Even Wordsworth, the least funny of major poets, has his “We Are Seven” and “Expostulation and Reply,” which possess the strengths and effects of light verse; and Milton has his sonnet on the Cambridge mail-carrier, not to mention the playful syntax in Book 4 of Paradise Lost. If I … Continue reading 155. (Christopher Smart)

152. (Wallace Stevens)

When you start out with a feeling of alienation—from an unspoken, blank, or meaningless past—from a mass of others, or even single others, in the present–or from a future defined by a fraudulent and thin promise—the risks are either cynical withdrawal, refusing to believe that the estrangement can be overcome, or else sentimentality, the insistence that a momentary, blazing common feeling be allowed to outshine … Continue reading 152. (Wallace Stevens)

146. (John Milton)

Reading Paradise Lost with a student, the chance to see more than before, vicariously through fresh eyes, has been most thrillingly felt in the book where seeing with fresh eyes is the poet’s subject: the fourth, where Satan sees Adam and Eve for the first time, where Eve sees her own reflection, where Satan, dissembling the Angels, is exposed and learns that he is not seen in … Continue reading 146. (John Milton)

135. (Ben Jonson)

Whether he is the first or not, Ben Jonson is among the earliest of the major American writers. A perverse claim, in so far as he never stepped foot on the far (or near) side of the Atlantic, it becomes not only plausible but persuasive when we consider that Jonson’s great subject matter was the gross acquisitive spirit of the city of London, the earliest … Continue reading 135. (Ben Jonson)

133. (William Wordsworth)

Poetry consoles the feelings of betrayal and disappointment as it does no other feelings because poetry is inherently awakened by anxieties and realities of both: why else deviate into meter, novelties of metaphor, and disorienting patterns of language unless motivated somewhat by the sense that language, as it appears in various other, more normal combinations and arrangements, would betray and disappoint? In the past week, … Continue reading 133. (William Wordsworth)