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)

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)

118. (Geoffrey Hill)

Geoffrey Hill died last week, on June 30, at age 84. Nobody doubts that he wrote some of the greatest English poetry of the twentieth century; but the critical consensus on Hill’s poetry falls out of harmony when confronted with the collections that coincided with its close. William Logan, one of Hill’s stauncher American admirers, is disparaging: “The caterwauling of “The Triumph of Love” (1998), … Continue reading 118. (Geoffrey Hill)

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)