222. (Emily Dickinson)

This post is the second of a series of evolving sketches about “decorum” in poetry. This is the messiest of the bunch, conceptually and historically. Dickinson was the provocation rather than the central subject. But it gets to her in the end, as does the next post, which is again, on Emily Dickinson, hopefully in much clearer terms. One of the pleasures of Tudor poetry … Continue reading 222. (Emily Dickinson)

221. (John Keats)

This post is the first in a series of evolving sketches on “decorum” in poetry; it leads into the next post, on Emily Dickinson, both of which are much refined and restated in yet another post on Emily Dickinson (223). Through all of these posts, I’m writing against and with Donald Davie, the critic best remembered for Articulate Energy and Purity of Diction in English Verse. None of … Continue reading 221. (John Keats)

220. (Willa Cather)

It’s not only re-reading Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House at the same time as reading the final volumes of Proust’s novel that brings the one into proximity of the other. It is also passages like the following: To this day St. Peter regretted that he had never got that vacation in Paris with Tom Outland. He had wanted to revisit certain spots with him: to go … Continue reading 220. (Willa Cather)

219. (Marcel Proust)

The last volume of Proust’s great novel is, from the sado-masochistic fantasies of Baron de Charlus in the first half, to the final party given by the Princesse de Guermantes (formerly Mme. Verdurin) in the second, a reckoning with the body as a vessel not just for life in time, but for time itself. The meditations on the body resemble, intersect with, and then develop … Continue reading 219. (Marcel Proust)

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)

217. (Ishmael Reed)

Even though it is frequent in contemporary fiction, present-tense narration is not easily justified. People and place are no more immediate in present than in past tense; time progresses and spins out, back on itself, and suddenly forward, in any tense. The present tense, maybe, pretends that something is not settled, that the fixity of the past has been surmounted by the possibilities carried along … Continue reading 217. (Ishmael Reed)

216. (Marcel Proust)

In the sixth volume of Recherche, Proust approaches Tennyson: the section of The Fugitive entitled “Grieving and Forgetting” is an extended elegy, an expression of grief and mourning that is also a reflection on grief and mourning. For Proust, however, the grief and mourning for Albertine prompts an elegy for desire (which is a dimension of love), whereas Tennyson’s grief and mourning for Hallam provokes … Continue reading 216. (Marcel Proust)