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)

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)

214. (T.S. Eliot)

When someone says that something possesses the quality of the literary, or refers to the literary or even artistic imagination, they refer, I’ve suggested, to a special sort of imaginative tact: one that apprehends bodily experience. On the one hand, it might be said that not all literature is or should be about the body; on the other hand, it might be said that any … Continue reading 214. (T.S. Eliot)

211. (Percy Shelley)

Shelley’s poetry has challenged some of the finest critics, and even Hazlitt, who stands opposed to Shelley’s most notable detractors, such as Eliot and Hazlitt, is chary in his praise. It’s thought now that the matter is behind us, but that is only because the matter of critical argument over taste isn’t much done, but taste remains a standing challenge to powers of articulation and … Continue reading 211. (Percy Shelley)

176. (Robert Burns)

It’s difficult to know what to do with Robert Burns, besides read and enjoy him, and take fortification from him; he doesn’t seem to play games with words that invite others to play along, and the poetry is disarming for criticism of a certain fervent close-reading type, less by its honesty than by its plausible claims to honesty. Maybe it’s easier, initially, to appreciate the … Continue reading 176. (Robert Burns)

144. (Philip Larkin)

[COMPLETE VERSION.]  A chief complaint against Larkin is the insularity, his reaction to modernism that confuses an affirmation of Hardy’s special and lasting richness with a rejection of the internationalism that characterizes Pound and Eliot. It is the Larkin we see in a conversation with 1964 Ian Hamilton (collected in Further Requirements); asked “Do you read any foreign poetry,” the reply is stodgy and affected: “Foreign … Continue reading 144. (Philip Larkin)

113. (Ezra Pound)

Pound, whose faith in poetry as a force to make something happen was constant and remains invigorating, began his career with poems that realize that possibility not through injunctions to act or imperatives to civilize, but through informing his reader’s “fundamental disposition towards the world.” Though he is opposed Pound ideologically, John Dewey’s phrase for appreciating how Pound’s achievement as an inventive craftsman might be … Continue reading 113. (Ezra Pound)