257. (T.S. Eliot)

Since the age of 16 or 17, when I discovered the criticism of T.S. Eliot for myself, I’ve met with respected voices discouraging me from its allurements as well respected voices encouraging me to see it’s greatness. Among the critics and readers who have mattered most to me, Empson, Davie, Ricks, and Hill, there is a common belief in Eliot’s greatness as a critic, his … Continue reading 257. (T.S. Eliot)

255. (Geoffrey Hill)

Poetry as persuasive harmony; it rises from the conditions of its making, and justifies itself against the discord of that condition; a false poem, like any false work of art, cheats or lies by failing to acknowledge that discord or by celebrating its resolution prematurely. Such a thought is not a prerequisite for appreciating the late poetry of Geoffrey Hill; instead, it arises with an … Continue reading 255. (Geoffrey Hill)

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)

154. (William Wordsworth)

For Wordsworth, the ontological unity of which humankind forms a part at times inspires a longing for division, and at times coincides with the helplessness of isolation and alienation; the failure of human society and actions exacerbates both the longing and the helplessness.  It is the hidden strength of the sympathetic imagination to reconcile humankind to the longing or the alienation, and maybe to overcome either. … Continue reading 154. (William Wordsworth)

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)

129. (Ishion Hutchinson)

When a poet seems to matter, it often seems that his or her course matters too; they should be on a trajectory, arriving somewhere new, or returning us somewhere renewed. The movement between Ishion Hutchinson’s first collection, Far District, and his second, recently published, House of Lords and Commons, can be felt in the third and final stanza of the first poem, “Station”: . I … Continue reading 129. (Ishion Hutchinson)

119. (Geoffrey Hill)

We are accustomed to hearing that Geoffrey Hill makes few concessions to readers, that he bristles at accommodation, compromise, and accessibility. And indeed he does in many circumstances. But in other regards, he is astonishingly accessible and accommodating; his poetry opens for a reader, as no other poetry no, a particular, convincing and moving experience of language, one that allows for readers to feel the … Continue reading 119. (Geoffrey Hill)