187. (Charles Williams)

When anyone remembers Charles Williams these days, it is probably for one of two reasons. Either they know of Williams through his association with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a brief but dazzling member of the Inklings and features centrally in the enjoyable recent biography of that group, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Otherwise, they know of Williams … Continue reading 187. (Charles Williams)

171. (T.S. Eliot)

  Among Eliot’s staunchest and nimblest readers, Christopher Ricks was unrelenting in his 1978 attack on Eliot’s late essay, “What is Minor Poetry?”  I offer first a series of quotations from Ricks’ piece, published in Ploughshares: Eliot is probably the only important critic who has bent himself to—or on—the distinction between major and minor, and yet even this master of elusiveness found himself out-eluded. For his … Continue reading 171. (T.S. Eliot)

143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

And, in part, 143. (Elaine Feinstein), since it is Feinstein’s translations (written with the assistance of Angela Livingstone) from the Russian on which I will be relying. Although Livingstone tells us that Tsvetaeva’s voice is “particularly difficult to capture,” Tsvetaeva took a view of poetry that might empower a translator, though it also places a burden of the highest creative expectations on the act of … Continue reading 143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

104. (Geoffrey Hill)

In the late collections where Eugenio Montale is most present, in translation and as an interlocutor, Hill’s voice finds most relief from its gnarled self-doubts and thorny metaphysics. Montale stands at the center of Al Tempo de’ Tremuoti, in a series of six translations (Hill calls them “variants”) of “Il Gallo Cedrone,” from La Bufera e Altro. Il Gallo Cedrone Dove t’abbatti dopo il breve … Continue reading 104. (Geoffrey Hill)

92. (Robert Lowell)

My mind is snared by wit, and Marvell’s wit in particular. The Greatness of that poet, once proclaimed, has burned out in critical conversation; but it was a real thought, mid-century, that he was very great indeed, and when Robert Lowell decided, in the 1960s, to ride the iambic tetrameter for many poems in Near the Ocean, he had the MP from Hull in mind. But … Continue reading 92. (Robert Lowell)

64. (Ezra Pound)

Of Ezra Pound’s poem “The Return,” Donald Davie remarks how “surprising” it is that “a poet who had scored his most brilliant successes with Browningesque poems, dense with the tangible presences of men recorded in history and occupying a very particular time and space, should have wanted to write a poem like this–let alone, that he should have brought it off.” Occurring in “a dimension … Continue reading 64. (Ezra Pound)