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)

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)

125. (Christina G. Rossetti)

Patience is the activity and end of Christina G. Rossetti’s poetry: patience for the time of God, for death, for the second coming, and patience with her fleeting passions. As a consequence, the volume of her output, the 800-odd pages in the Penguin Complete Poems, edited by R.W. Crump, is less surprising than it seems: patience must be repeatedly mastered and renewed; it cannot be … Continue reading 125. (Christina G. Rossetti)

112. (Lewis Carroll)

“The shadow of an amputated limb”–I’ve thrown out that phrase as a description of queerness in literature: the amputated limb is the body, its desires lopped off (repressed) by a society seeking to reproduce itself (humans being, the anthropologist Maurice Godelier writes, the only animals that not only live and reproduce in society, but need and reproduce society in order to live), and its shadow … Continue reading 112. (Lewis Carroll)

107. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

Though Wilde mocked his pronouncements of sexual deviance,  Swinburne quarried queer desire for a reinvention of the metaphysical tradition. Even among Victorianists, Swinburne is not written on or read much nowadays, but looking back nearly one hundred years, to the critics who were weaned on the poet of Putney (Swinburne in his later years) and who weaned off him into the dazzle of Donne, may … Continue reading 107. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

84. (William Wordsworth)

If the project of the humanities is the recovery of the past, then a part of that recovery must be the task of criticism that is appreciative, even evaluative; such criticism can restore to the present the sources of power in poetry that may have been occluded by time, convention, or ossified habits of thought and reading. So it is when we read Christopher Ricks’ … Continue reading 84. (William Wordsworth)

83. (William Barnes)

William Barnes, born in 1801, is a contemporary of Tennyson and Robert Browning, and among his four collections of poetry are lyrics to stand alongside their finest. He is almost exclusively a pastoral poet, fitting between Wordsworth and Hardy in a literary genealogy. He possibly did his reputation a disservice by writing so many poems in the Dorset dialect; he put himself forward as a regional … Continue reading 83. (William Barnes)