242. (W.H. Auden)

The conundrum of Auden’s poetry—the conundrum of how to compare its aims and achievements to those of his contemporaries and to earlier poets—consists of several parts and is best sustained by a comparison to Yeats and also to French verse. The parts in brief: 1) Auden’s sense of history is flat: the past is not absorbed into his poems as a foreign element, as alien … Continue reading 242. (W.H. Auden)

209. (Marcel Proust)

From the “Proust and Other Matters” blog, a debate from an old Yahoo Proust listserv, over the name of “Cambremer,” which features as a joke first in Swann’s Way, but then centrally in Sodom and Gomorrah, when the lift boy fails to correct his pronunciation, “Camembert”: Dear Sharon, Today, I just wanted to correct your interpretation of the jokes about the name Cambremer. The joke about the name … Continue reading 209. (Marcel Proust)

172. (Eugenio Montale)

  The Poetry Foundation’s website has a brief essay on Montale, helpful mostly for its generous quotations from critics and from the poet. The consensus among critics, unsurprisingly, is that Montale’s poetry is “difficult.” Here is Ghan Singh: Of all the important twentieth-century Italian poets Montale is the one in whose case it is most difficult to proceed by explicating, through definite formulations and statements, … Continue reading 172. (Eugenio Montale)

115. (Italo Svevo)

Italo Svevo, whose talent was recognized and whose career was partially rescued by Joyce, is not much read nowadays. Joyce’s favorite Svevo novel was not Zeno’s Conscience, which is most well-known, but instead the earlier (1898) As a Man Grows Older (available through New York Review of Books). The novel is easy to classify as charming, sad, a curious blend of the pathetic and ridiculous, comedic in its … Continue reading 115. (Italo Svevo)

100. (T.S. Eliot)

All poetry orients itself, to knowledge, to others, to the world or something beyond it; Eliot’s poetry stoically queries and quietly agonizes over the possibility of orientation. To speak of orientation and Eliot in the same breath inevitably summons speculations about orientation of the sexes; and however hollow such speculations might be, they are a valid extension of the experience of reading Eliot, which leaves … Continue reading 100. (T.S. Eliot)