147. (Ishion Hutchinson)

An appropriate title for this post might be “Momentum and Moment in the poetry of Ishion Hutchinson,” but the reason why will not be apparent till the end. Last week, Hutchinson’s House of Lords and Commons won the National Book Critic Circle award for poetry. I’ve written about Hutchinson before on a few occasions, admiring his work more on each. Here is another attempt at catching … Continue reading 147. (Ishion Hutchinson)

146. (John Milton)

Reading Paradise Lost with a student, the chance to see more than before, vicariously through fresh eyes, has been most thrillingly felt in the book where seeing with fresh eyes is the poet’s subject: the fourth, where Satan sees Adam and Eve for the first time, where Eve sees her own reflection, where Satan, dissembling the Angels, is exposed and learns that he is not seen in … Continue reading 146. (John Milton)

141. (Robert Browning)

In most lyric poems of the nineteenth century, the pressure exerted on the language derive from the intense self-consciousness of the speaker: self-accusation, self-awareness, self-doubt, self-affirmation, but almost always occurring with the assumption that the speaker is alone with his or her words, and a solitary encounter with language. Even in the conversation poems of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though another is present, it is not … Continue reading 141. (Robert Browning)

140. (William Empson)

William Empson’s poetry has, until very recently, and despite years of trying to read it with some genuine appreciation, been inaccessible to me. I had thought that the trouble was with the density of conceit, the range of reference in the analogies, and the feeling that readers are being asked to sort out crosswords in verse; but the notes in the Haffenden edition cover that … Continue reading 140. (William Empson)

139. (Matthew Arnold)

Showing, earlier this week, some poems I’d written to a critic I admire and trust, I received back some critical suggestions that struck at a peculiar blind-spot: the first-person singular, where it is needed and where not, how it shifts the weight of a poem, dragging a great deal in with it, and excluding a great deal also. To write, for instance, “I would say” … Continue reading 139. (Matthew Arnold)

135. (Ben Jonson)

Whether he is the first or not, Ben Jonson is among the earliest of the major American writers. A perverse claim, in so far as he never stepped foot on the far (or near) side of the Atlantic, it becomes not only plausible but persuasive when we consider that Jonson’s great subject matter was the gross acquisitive spirit of the city of London, the earliest … Continue reading 135. (Ben Jonson)