JANUARY 2013 POETRY MAGAZINE REVIEWED, PART 2

Baudelaire: Scared the hell out of Poetry magazine contributor Daisy Fried

We now come to the prose part of Poetry’s January issue, which includes a series of “Reconsiderations” of well-known poets, called “Antagonisms” in the Poetry Table of Contents—which is a terrific idea, and we think it should be a regular feature.

Some of the Poetry hires go right after their famous counterparts, but others get cold feet, apologizing to the editors: I want to take apart Baudelaire b-b-but I just can’t!

Dylan Thomas is the first titan up, and Michael Robbins fearlessly takes him on .

“Reconsidering Dylan Thomas,” or “The Child That Sucketh Long” begins with an amusing Michael Robbins observation: phrases from Thomas’ poems sounds like the names of Heavy Metal bands:

They appear to be the names of  heavy metal bands: Plague of  Fables; Star-Flanked Seed; Serpent Caul; Murder of Eden; Altar of Plagues; Seed-at-Zero; The Grave and My Calm Body; Dark Asylum; Mares of  Thrace; Herods Wail; Christbread; Binding Moon; Red Swine. In fact they are phrases culled from Dylan Thomas’s poems — except that I threw two actual metal bands in there. Didn’t notice, did you?

When Robbins indulges in pure fun, as above, he’s enjoyable to read, but we’re afraid we’re going to have to take Robbins to task for some of his Thomas-bashing.

Robbins faults Thomas for “disregard[ing] what part of speech a word usually is,” but in Robbins’  example, “I fellowed sleep who kissed me in the brain, /  Let fall the tear of time,” the culprit is metaphoric vagueness, not the word, “fellowed.”

Robbins errs again when he calls the following “sentimental:”

No. Not for Christ’s dazzling bed
Or a nacreous sleep among soft particles and charms
My dear would I change my tears or your iron head.
Thrust, my daughter or son, to escape, there is none, none, none,
Nor when all ponderous heaven’s host of waters breaks.

Robbins follows the quote with: “Who does the guy think he is?”

Modern and post-modern critics, habitually rejecting what has come to be known as Victorian sentiment, are often blind to every modern lapse which plagues contemporary poetry: obscurity, ugliness, and pretentiousness.  Robbins is wrong: if there’s a problem with the Thomas passage it’s the failure to depict more accessibly its sentiment.  It is Robbins, the critic, who is being sentimental here.

Robbins correctly finds the Hopkins influence: “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief…” and says,

Hopkins sincerely believed the state of his soul was at stake. All that’s at stake for Thomas is whether his self-pity has been gorgeously enough expressed. 

Sincerely believed?  Now who is being sentimental?

Expression is all—whether we judge Tennyson or Ashbery, and supplying biographical information to imply that one poet “sincerely believes” more than another is, well, sentimental.  We are not sure how the desire to “gorgeously express a sentiment” translates into “self-pity,” but worrying about the “state of one’s soul” does not. The confusion Robbins suffers from arises, not because moderns are no longer mawkish, but because they’ve erected an anti-mawkish standard on what they don’t seem to realize is mawkish ground.

“Who does the guy think he is?” Robbins cries, but he should look in the mirror and see how he resembles the old Moderns who looked back at Keats, Shelley and Byron, and cried, “Who did these guys think they were?”  The response is, “Who do you think the guy has to be?”

Robbins finishes his essay on Thomas by pointing out some other moderns who fell into what Robbins calls  “mannered mush.”  But here’s the problem: All poetry worth the name is, in some way, mannered and courts, to a some degree, sentiment.  When we are shocked to find, upon careful inspection, that modern poetry rises (or falls) to mannered sentiment, well, we shouldn’t be.  The critic needs to tell us how the manner and the sentiment fail—because of course they often do, in every modern poet there is—it is time we stop hiding, in our false modern haughtiness, behind the generalized and slap-dash accusation of “mannered mush.”

Like Hart Crane’s, Thomas’s faults protrude embarrassingly from the wazoo. Crane’s are easier to forgive, since he had vision, and Thomas was myopic. But at his best he has, like Crane, a towering presence of mind, a stranglehold on the language. Perhaps I’d love him more if   I hadn’t loved him so much, so early. I’ve made my peace with other early crushes who came to seem so much mannered mush: James Wright, Rilke, Neruda. Rereading Thomas now for this piece, I found myself thawing toward him, as I slowly did toward those others, whom now I love anew, love more clearly. So get you gone, Dylan Thomas, though with blessings on your head.

We give Robbins’ essay C+.

Jason Guriel goes off on E.E. Cummings—who was at Harvard with T.S. Eliot and belonged very much to the Eliot/Pound/Moore/Williams Dial clique—who is an easy target, and Guriel doesn’t miss.  The essay’s title, “Sub-Seuss,” bodes its take-no-prisoners approach.

The message Cummings communicates here — and which langpo
types and concrete poets continue to internalize — is remarkably 
unambiguous: words are toy blocks, and poems, child’s play. No one else has made making it new look so easy.

But Cummings’s poems themselves were only superficially “new.” Beneath the tattoo-thin signifiers of edginess — those lowercase i’s, those words run together —  flutters the heart of a romantic. (Is there a correlation between typographically arresting poetry and emotional arrestedness?) He fancies himself an individual among masses, finds the church ladies have “furnished souls,” opposes war. He’s far more self-righteous, this romantic, than any soldier or gossip — and far deadlier: he’s a teenager armed with a journal.

Guriel gets the job done.  A-

Thank God for Laura Kasischke.  She punctures Wallace Stevens with delicacy, modesty, and humor, and it’s a rip-roaring good time because she calls out this overrated, sometimes Sub-Seuss, poet.

I know only too well that it is my own failings as a reader, a thinker, 
a poet, and a human being that I don’t like the work of  Wallace Stevens. I know that there are scholars who have devoted their lives to his work, and done so out of  the purest motives. I know that there are poets who, without Stevens’s work to inspire them, would never have taken up the pen themselves. I know that there are students for whom “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” upon first being encountered, cracked open a world of thought and language and helped them to pull themselves out of the gutter of cable television and to worship forever after at the altar of Wallace Stevens. I know that hundreds — thousands! — of far better readers, thinkers, poets, and human beings love the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Spiritually. In all sincerity. And completely.

But, honestly, how can they? I placed a jar in Tennessee…?

“No! Don’t! Please!” someone (perhaps that poor secretary to whom he supposedly dictated the poems every morning) should have said. She should have said, “Wallace, no. Don’t use the word ‘placed.’ It makes you sound so… so …  so full of yourself ! As if you think that every time you toss a candy wrapper out the window the landscape rearranges itself around you. The whole idea that someone (you) has put (I mean placed) a jar on a hill and then written
a poem about it — that whole idea is so ludicrous and disturbing that it will be discussed for decades in cold rooms with bad lighting. And the music of it! omg! It did not give of bird or bush… 
You really are joking now, aren’t you? This is like that other line, the one with the concupiscent curds in it? Right? You’re just trying to make the kids in Poetry 101 with hangovers start up with the cold sweats, right?”

But perhaps she never dared to say that. He was a powerful man. He was never told by anyone that a poem with a line that required pronouncing the name “Tehuantepec” repeatedly, followed by a line about the “slopping” sea, was stomach-churning. And no one ever asked him to explain how, exactly, a man and a woman and a blackbird can be one. No one said, “Nuncle, you must reconsider this hoo-hoo-hoo and shoo-shoo-shoo and ric-a-nic. And, of course, ‘cachinnation’ is going to require yet another footnote, you know. Maybe just say ‘loud laughter’?”

Just now I took out the Norton, thinking I must be misremembering these lines. No poet as beloved as Wallace Stevens could have written them. But the first Stevens line my eyes fall upon is “Opusculum paedagogum.  / The pears are not viols.” At least I don’t have to worry about those lines getting stuck in my head all day.

Was that “poor secretary” Helen Vendler, by any chance?

Stevens is often viscerally annoying—and any metaphysical apology misses the point.  More than that: Stevens, as Kasischke reminds us, is pretentious (or just silly) in sound as well as sense—and it’s natural to get called out this way since we are talking about poetry.

Laura Kasischke, you get an A.

Peter Campion finds the novels and essays of D.H. Lawrence stronger than the poetry, but we think his best poems hold up better than his prose.  But I suppose if one slogs through Lawrence’s “Collected,” the preachy pessimisim would probably overwhelm.  We feel the best of his poetry will outlast everything else.

Campion finds the “fatalistic and tender” a important feature of Lawrence and British poetry (Larkin, Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald).  We suppose he has a point.

We’ll give Campion a solid B.

Daisy Fried is clearly intimidated by Baudelaire, and in a fit of American self-hatred, finally succumbs to his lurid seduction.

After all, he and Poe invented poetic goth. It’s not Baudelaire’s fault his modern-day followers are goofballs. And not their fault I’m a boring middle-aged American. 

Objections to sexism in this passage are anachronistic; Baudelaire’s always most revolted by himself.
We in America could use more romantic self-disgust. (Frederick Seidel thinks so. Ooga Booga is the Fleurs du Mal of our time.)

Fried earns a B.

Ange Mlinko was given the most difficult task: Elizabeth Bishop, who is virtually untouchable these days.  The dialogue format she chooses works pretty well, but the content isn’t terribly interesting.  Mlinko finds Bishop chummy, congenial, wishy-washy, and formally rote.  Which seems completely wrong.  Bishop is actually quite surly in her poems.

We give Mlinko a C.

We now come to the final two January 2013 Poetry essays—by Ilya Kaminsky and Peter Cole; instead of short and sweet “antagonisms, these are lengthy, dreary affairs, tedious, and self-important, the sorts of essays that blot the literary landscape with cool quotes, cool locales, cool names—and rhetoric which serves no other purpose than background to the cool quotes, cool locales, and cool names.

Take Ilya Kaminsky’s “Of Strangeness That Wakes Us” (on Paul Celan).

Cool quotes: W.H. Auden: “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.”  Theodor Adorno: “It Is Barbaric To Write Poetry After The Holocaust.”  Anne Carson: “Celan is a poet who uses language as if he were always translating.”  Eavan Boland: “It is the poet’s process that needs to be translated.”Emily Dickinson: “I Felt A Funeral, in my Brain.” Robert Kelly: We sleep in language if language does not come to wake us with its strangeness.” Check.

Cool locales: Czernowitz, Vienna, Paris.  Check.

Cool names: Paul Celan, Cesar Vallejo, Walt Whitman, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ovid, Breton, John Berryman.  Check.

Kaminsky ponders at the start of his essay, “Is Celan’s work too obscure, as some claim?”

The answer is simple in ratio to the rhetorical labor Kaminsky expends to prove otherwise: Yes, it is too obscure.

If we are honest, and admit obscurity right away, we don’t have to waste our time quoting Emily Dickinson, Eavan Boland, and Robert Kelly.  As long as Kaminsky can dance and beat a drum, he drags in another well-known quote to prove the impossible, and it is painful to watch.

Kaminsky quotes Zbigniew Herbert (of course!):

INTERVIEWER: “What is the purpose of poetry?”
HERBERT: “To wake up!”

But how does it wake us up?  And it wakes us to what?

Kaminsky gives us the answer (rather gallantly) by quoting from Genesis (a Biblical quotation!) backwards and claims there’s “more poetry” when we read the passage in reverse. 

“And there was light let there be God and said waters.” 

I suppose it might please an atheist to read “let there be God,” but poetry isn’t meant to please one belief system over another, is it? 

Kaminsky can’t seriously be saying any text read backwards will be more poetic, and thus, wake us up

What Kaminsky does explicitly say is that lyric poetry “wrecks normal language,” but this observation, which is nearly a truism, cannot make obscure poetry less obscure.

In the Genesis example—the crowning jewel of the essay—Kaminsky takes sacred, elevated language (Genesis) and “wrecks” it.

The backwards reading of Genesis, altering the intended meaning, takes authority away from God and gives it back to language. Since humans are limited in their perceptions, the atheist position is how all humans (correctly or incorrectly) experience the universe. So the backward phrase, “let there be God,” which finds the human-writing (truth) of Genesis, “wakes” us up to the atheist reality within a sacred text.

This is an interesting religious argument, but it has nothing to do with Kaminsky’s defense of Celan’s poetry.

Likewise, distorting or punning on famous words, as Kaminsky does with Genesis, is done all the time in the popular press—would Kaminsky call this “poetry” that “wakes us up?”  If a pun gives a ‘haha’ moment, perhaps ‘wrecking’ language can give us an ‘aha’ moment. 

This is an interesting linguistic argument, but it has nothing to do with reading Paul Celan.

Kaminsky is not writing an essay, but tip-toeing through the tulips of argumentation, dazzling with quotations; in Kaminsky’s rarefied realm of Zbigniew Herbert quotes, he appears to miss the common sense implications of his own rhetoric.

This is how Kaminsky reads Celan in the opening of his essay:

The deciphering of the text proves the worthiness of the reader.

Some of Celania’s poems are modern psalms; here is one:

Of  too much was our talk, of
too little. Of  the You
and You-Again, of
how clarity troubles, of
Jewishness, of
your God.

Of
that.
On the day of an ascension, the
Minister stood over there, it sent
some gold across the water.

Of  your God was our talk, I spoke
against him, I
let the heart that I had
hope:
for
his highest, death-rattled, his
quarreling word —

Your eye looked on, looked away,
your mouth
spoke its way to the eye, and I heard:
We
don’t know, you know,
we
don’t know, do we?,
what
counts.
Zurich, the Stork Inn, tr. by Michael Hamburger

“Extreme clarity is a mystery,” says Mahmoud Darwish. “Clarity troubles.” Celan, often considered a difficult poet, is in this poem at his clearest.

Is Celan’s work too obscure, as some claim? Is it too hermetic? Too difficult? Real poems, Celan wrote, are “making toward something   …    perhaps toward an addressable Thou.” I would argue that, for any poet writing toward such a subject, regular words and syntax soon become inadequate (Hopkins, anyone?). Celan is an extreme case though, because he also had to contend with the inadequacy of the German language to express the experience of the Jewish poet, post-Holocaust. His is the lyricism of privacy (prayer is private, no matter with how many fellow congregants it is uttered or in how many prayer books it appears), not of hermeticism. In fact, Celan insisted to Michael Hamburger that he was “ganz und gar nicht hermetisch.” Absolutely not hermetic.

Does Kaminsky read Celan’s “modern psalm” backwards to understand it better? 

No.

Is Celan a punster? 

No.

Is Celan’s poem clear?

No.

Is Kaminsky able to make Celan’s poem less obscure for us?

No.

Is it at all clear what this “adressable Thou” is?

No.

The subject of Kaminsky’s essay simply doesn’t know itself.

Finally, Kaminsky’s main point is the “privacy” of the lyric poet—and he ends his essay:

A great poet is not someone who speaks in stadiums to thousands of  listeners. A great poet is a very private person. In his or her privacy this poet creates a language in which he or she is able to speak, privately, to many people at the same time.

But this doesn’t make any sense.  If one hears a poet’s words in a stadium among thousands of listeners, one is still responding as a private person to those words. “Creating a language to speak, privately, to many people at the same time” could signify a poet speaking in a stadium to thousands.  Why not?  And so where does this leave Kaminsky’s definition of lyric “privacy?”

We must give Kaminsky’s essay a C, because for all it brings, it is hollow at its center, arguing from scattered quotes rather than from common sense.

Peter Cole has something called, “The Invention of Influence: A Notebook/A Notebook: Seeking higher powers in the Middle East” in which he rambles, endlessly; like Kaminsky, Cole proffers quotation after quotation, never stopping long enough to  explore any one issue.  It’s the School of Harold Bloom: peeling the onion of reference after reference after reference to find at the center nothing but a tremendous ego who reads a lot.  Surely Peter Cole should be interesting—he reads so much! 

Cole’s essay is more personal than Kaminsky’s, which makes it ‘warmer,’ but also more helter-skelter; Cole made a much freer space for himself—though you end up wishing he hadn’t.  Cole tries to gives us: ‘here’s how I write/here’s how I think/here’s what’s going on,’ but ends up giving us, ‘would you look how much I travel/would  you look how much I observe/would you look how much I read.’  One cannot tell whether the failure of the essay is from the sort of person Cole is, or whether the failure is from the form the essay happened to take—and it speaks even worse for Cole that we cannot tell.  The essay is briefly everywhere and thus, nowhere.

When you read stuff like this from Cole’s essay, one can only think, will you please shut up?

Why did I have such a hard time coming up with an “antagonism” to write about for Poetry? Do the dead bite back? Or is it that I’m by temperament and training now so fastidiously turned against myself
that I lean into my antagonisms until they give way at a certain point like a secret door-in-the-wall to enthusiasm? James Merrill, for instance. Or Pope.

It’s a translator’s gift, and curse. A strategy of masking and, I suppose, also of evasion. Not only an ability to inhabit difference, but a desire and need to. As a source of pleasure, and nourishment — even wisdom. What others find in fiction?

Hence, too, the obsession of late with couplets, which I once despised. The desire to compose in rhymed couplets in such a way as to highlight the openness lurking in a certain closure. As organic as a pulse, or respiration.

It’s embarrassing to watch how ‘open and nice’ strive to hide ‘crazy and nasty.’  He’s too nice to give the Poetry editors an “antagonism.”  Well, not so much nice, as fastidiously turned against himself.  Too bad, Poetry editors. Mr. Cole fastidiously refuses.

Cole once “despised” couplets??  How can one “despise” couplets?  Oh, but dear friends, Peter Cole is now obsessed with couplets—in order to highlight openness lurking in a certain closure—and this (of course!) is organic. 

Good grief.

Cole gets a C-.

Finally, one lively Letter to the Editor is published, in which Philip Metres takes Clive James to task for “the idea that poems exist only for the page, [which] is lamentably myopic, and part of the predicament of  poetry’s marginalization in American culture.”

The lesson here, as we judge Poetry’s prose in their January issue,  seems to be: in Letters, antagonism is life and its opposite, death.

23 Comments

  1. Laura Kasischke said,

    January 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    🙂

  2. Dawn Potter said,

    January 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    I’m with Laura all the way about Stevens.

  3. noochinator said,

    January 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I remember reading the jar poem one evening,
    When exhausted after work that did bore me—
    I just started laughing hysterically as if
    The Emp’ror with no clothes stood before me.

    Viva La Kasischke!

  4. thomasbrady said,

    January 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Wallace Stevens is famous because he belonged to an important clique (Walter Arensberg, Man Ray, WC Williams )armed to the teeth with modernist theory.

    John Crowe Ransom in 1938:

    “A good pure poem is Wallace Stevens’ “Sea Surface Full of Clouds”—famous perhaps, but certainly not well known.”

    Odd that, ‘famous perhaps, but certainly not well known.’ Wonder what Ransom meant? Probably he meant: thanks to our clique, suckers, Stevens will soon be famous…

    Anyway, Ransom continues his Wallace-worship:

    “I shall have to deal with it summarily. Time and place, ‘In that summer off Tehuantepec.’ The poem has five uniform stanzas, presenting as many surface effects beheld at breakfast time ‘after the slopping of the sea by night grew still.’ The first surface made one think of rosy chocolate and gilt umbrellas; the second of chophouse chocoloate and sham umbrellas, the third…”

    “Nothing could be more discriminating than these details, which induct us respectively into the five fields of observation. The poem has a calculated complexity, and its technical competence is so high that to study it, if you do that sort of thing, is to be happy.”

    Stevens, of course, will praise Ransom in print as well. But here we see Ransom giving Stevens the highest plaudits it is possible to give: to study the complexity of Stevens makes one happy.

    Ransom winds up his paean thusly:

    “That is has not been studied by a multitude of persons [here is Ransom obsessed with fame, again] is due to a simple consideration which strikes us at once: the poem has no moral, political, religious or sociological values. It is not about ‘res publica,’ the public thing. The subject matter is trifling.”

    In other words, according to Ransom’s theory, Stevens is not Soviet. The ‘new’ poetry, the ‘pure’ art of the moderns, is the true art of tomorrow—which will bring down, with its pure sensuality, with its pure (trifling) artistry, all Soviet empires, all tyranny.

    This was the ‘sell’ of WW II era Modernism in the anthologies, in the magazines, and in the college textbooks that greeted the returning soldiers schooled with the GI Bill post-war.

    The irony here is that to ‘sell’ anything in this way, you are not being ‘pure’ or ‘trifling’ in the least.

    We, the common readers, tend to but glimpse the residue of political struggles we only half-understand. Only now is the role of the CIA pushing pure modern art and the more-than-normal influence of New Critics coming to light.

    There’s more to Wallace Stevens than meets the eye.

    But Kasischke’s reaction to the aesthetics seems spot on to me. Stevens was consciously writing a type of poetry that Ransom is praising; in other words, Stevens was forcing poetry to fit ‘the times’ and we might even be able to say with certainty that poetry forced to fit ‘the times’ will fail, just as Stevens’ poetry fails. How many poets today are letting their poetry be influenced by the fact that we now have video games, facebook? And writing horrible poetry as a result?

  5. thomasbrady said,

    January 13, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Of course, pure poetry had been done by Edgar Poe, Ransom’s countryman, years before, and Poe was read by a “multitude of persons.” Poe’s poetry is not polticial, not religious, not Soviet, either.

    But it wasn’t Poe that Pound and Eliot and Ransom praised. In fact, Poe was rejected by the Modernists.

    Look how Ransom continues his essay quoted above:

    “Poetry of this sort, as it was practiced by some French poets of the nineteenth century, and as it is practiced by many British and American poets now, has been called pure poetry, and the name is accurate. It is nothing but poetry; it is poetry for poetry’s sake, and you cannot get a moral out of it. But it was to be expected that it would never win the public at large.”

    You see the emphasis on ‘French poets of the nineteenth century.’ Why is the famous American, Poe—who influenced to an extreme degree these ‘French poets of the nineteenth century’—left out of Ransom’s formula?

    Because Poe was famous—and thus he ruins Ransom’s argument!

    Poe made famous, in fact, poetry for poetry’s sake, and even fiction for fiction’s sake, the kind with no moral. Poe was explicit and famous, both, for his purity. Well, that’s the problem. Ransom is saying Stevens, and the new modern poets, who were very much in print at that time, and being anthologized by people like Untermeyer, were unread because they were soldiers of purity. They were unread, according to Ransom, because they were pure. Poe gives the lie to this. Poe also wrote with beauty and good taste, unlike Stevens, who writes what essentially comes off as pretentious and downright painful to read. Ransom, as Stevens’ friend, is manufacturing reasons for Stevens’ lack of fame and trying to turn it into reasons for future fame, which he partly did, since the Moderns were largely successful in making poetry an exercise in obscurity and bad taste in the name of what Ransom calls “trifling subject matter” and amoral purity. Poe did not manufacture ‘in-the-moment’ reasons to become famous—he stopped short of what Ransom and the modernist theorists did; Poe was not against saying ‘here is what poetry does best and here is how I think we ought to best write poetry’ but Poe never used words like ‘purity,’ which is the great void of modernist aesthetics, the void that went over the edge of common sense, the void that erased the public from its view, the void that grew into a reason for its own nothingness: the blank canvas, the abstract painting, the poem of pure unintelligible ugliness defended by those clique-ridden gentlemen modernists, who by their very wealth and self-manufactured elitism, felt it necessary to simply be anti-democratic and anti-popular—for its (and their) own sake.

  6. thomasbrady said,

    January 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Rasom, we now realize, was at the center of Modernism-secretly-funded-by-the-CIA politics, and Ransom was a good anti-Soviet soldier, this Southern American poet and critic.

    But in as much as Soviet means communism and communism means ‘the simple needs of the people,’ to be ‘anti-Soviet’ means you have to be above ‘the simple needs of the people’ as you fight Communism for people’s souls.

    The Communist Menace plays on simple people’s morals, the same way Religion does. The sophisticated Westerner, defending Western freedoms, does so by rejecting the ‘morals’ of both communism and religion. (The ‘Western’ struggle is now against Islam, or even a worse ‘enemy,’ a kind of Islam/Communist hybrid). The freedom weapon against all this is: Abstract Painting, war, and ‘Sea Surface Full of Clouds’ by Wallace Stevens.

    Strange but true.

  7. Clifford Duffy said,

    January 27, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    You wrote ““I fellowed sleep who kissed me in the brain, /  Let fall the tear of time,” the culprit is metaphoric vagueness, not the word, “fellowed.” I was reading along and that remark stopped me dead in my tracks __ I fellowed sleep is not vague, it’s difficult as numerous passage in Thomas’ work of ten are. The difficulity, or really the demand placed on one’s attention is not necessarily because of vagueness so called but rather the material itself. And effect of course, as Thomas is pouring it on,isn’t he? he wants to stop us dead in our tracks bringing us right into what he’s seeing and saying….. its very Welsh Celtic to thicken the spot of metaphor and lard it further and further into the density of the matter at hand. Hearing him recite it changes that but it does not alter it, but brings one , perhaps closer to the place he’s talking about. Anyhow, back to your article!

  8. Clifford Duffy said,

    January 27, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    And you also write :Robbins is wrong: if there’s a problem with the Thomas passage it’s the failure to depict more accessibly its sentiment.” And once more I disagree. Thomas’ work is joined by both its form and content into a unity that partakes of what he depicts. What he depicts is painful, or weary, and possibly obscure, so likewise the verse portrays these states.

  9. Clifford Duffy said,

    January 27, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    One final comment about the Thomas part of your remarks. You quote Robbims ‘summation’

    “Like Hart Crane’s, Thomas’s faults protrude embarrassingly from the wazoo. Crane’s are easier to forgive, since he had vision, and Thomas was myopic. But at his best he has, like Crane, a towering presence of mind, a stranglehold on the language. Perhaps I’d love him more if   I hadn’t loved him so much, so early. I’ve made my peace with other early crushes who came to seem so much mannered mush: James Wright, Rilke, Neruda. Rereading Thomas now for this piece, I found myself thawing toward him, as I slowly did toward those others, whom now I love anew, love more clearly. So get you gone, Dylan Thomas, though with blessings on your head.

    We give Robbins’ essay C+.” I don’t know who Robbins nor do I much care, but anyone who’s willing to reduce Thomas, Crane, or other poets to myopia and a selfish personal sense of their worth is a jackass. I’d love to see this feller in a room full of Harold Bloom students: they’d eat him alive!

  10. Clifford Duffy said,

    January 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    The attack on Stevens is just plain envy as likewise are the caustic comments about Cummings.

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Duffy,
      Your remarks on Thomas attempt to go to the heart of the matter, but I’m not sure I follow–you talk rather generally about Thomas the poet, but he was notoriously both good and bad–thus to eschew specifics–an actual close reading–gets us nowhere. Unless you can explain to me what the “tear of time” is, I’m afraid you can’t be trusted. “Tear of Time” is pure metaphoric mush and because the author of Do Not Go Gently wrote it does not mean it is good.

      Certainly we envy the fame of Stevens and Cummings–but this should not be interpreted as envy of their poetry.

      Tom

  11. Clifford Duffy said,

    January 28, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Brady, since you’ve begun by using last names I’ll use yours,you’re quite the little critic aren’t you? Shitting on a great poet like Thomas, trying to take down Stevens and Cummings who could do more with a poem or two than all the negative nonsense about ‘close reading’. Wherefore close Brady? What’s close about such densely populated poetry? I went back to the Poetry Foundation site to read what this other chap wrote and he at least ends his article blessing Thomas. And what do you do? Babble on about knowing what ‘tear of time’ means. Christ lad, what did Arthur Rimbaud say upon being asked what his last poems meant? I am not sure you know your French poets so I will tell you “they mean what they say in every sense of the word including the literal.” Which is how one is to read Thomas and others. By the way, ‘tear of time’ is an easy trope if you know your literature. It goes back to Ecclesiastes ‘A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;’. Thomas knew his bible and perhaps you do to and I am laughing as I write this. One has to laugh at such whimsy.

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      I always get in trouble using last names–when it’s meant as endearment or affection. Since by now I’ve lost count of how many Scarriet readers I’ve offended this way, it’s time I confess what I always took for granted–the Romantics, the natural entryway into true beautiful poetry and great letter writers (doesn’t everyone first fall in love with really great literature swooning to the sounds of Keats and Shelley or Shakespeare though we have no letters of Shakespeare?)–and in those marvelous letters the Romantics are always saying ‘my dear Coleridge’ or ‘Dearest Byron,’ not Sam or George! So forgive me, Duffy, for assuming you were like me. I am the measure of everything, if you’ll kindly pardon. Now how, my dear Duffy, if you love me, do you get ‘tear of time’ from ‘a time to…etc, etc? and damn Rimbaud cannot be trusted to explain anything–if you know your Rimbaud. And Brady is not even my name– it was used as an insult once and I took it on so to wear the world’s cloak for warmth–better than my own, but none’s my own. What shall I do with you, you rascal, Duffy!

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Anna.

      Williams’ reading is strangely distant and emotionless, almost perfunctory. Not how I hear the lines when I read them to myself.

      Is there any recording of Crane himself?

      Tom

  12. Interestedreader said,

    January 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    What the hek is going on here? Who the hek is Anna Miller? is she a clone leaving links without saying a word about what they signifiy? what’s happening to Scarriet???!!! is it going crazy?

  13. January 29, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Post-modern American poetry criticism exquisitely conducted on the branches of philosophical inquiry, in the salons of Cyberville. The mannered dictions, outrageous positions, sheer affronted vitality reflecting, perhaps, a wider, culturally divisive quality inherent in the political discourse and public discussion on the meaning of America and our dream of it as an abstract online entity existential only in a virtual realm, and in it filled with millions of brain-washed rednecks, deluded morons, fantastically eloquent experts on all things modo, of the moment, now, contemporary American talkers in bright bold mush, cool, detached and lofty orators aping toobs, ranting fools, foclo ‘word-weaving beginners’, MacFuirimid offspring of composition, dos bushy-tree shelterers, Cano cub-whelp, Cli pillar and pole, Anruth noble stream and poetry professor ollamhs, metaphorical masters and mistresses of ancient Cree deities, knowers of Graeco-Roman gods, from Apollo to Zeus, ‘Eamhain, of the Apple trees, of swans and yew trees’, Emerson, Eliot and Poe, doh duh dah deh dih, day doh doo dee die d’lidle tu-wit tu-wooing at the Celtic conundrum conflating in flyte what is wrong or is right, correct or inaccurate, kerching kerching kerching o the memory of it sings in Dylan drafted to life in the person of Richard Burton one can alas not produce here because of nazism in its most virulent form, liberal art in airy fairy passive-aggressive position, stance and prosecution demanding answers which a majority of us (and when I say ‘us’ I mean the American public) have absolutely zero interest in knowing because a majority of us are taught to ignore everything but God, Guns, Freedom, America, and our dream of it, depending on where, what, how and when we sit, sue, prosecute and profit from it, o city shining on a high and hollow hill, America be true, America be brave, Columbia come wipe away the tears of the aboriginal culture, sanitize our founding facts, transmute them into modern American myth, Godfather, Pulp Fiction, o inhabitants of darkness, noir, top o the world ma! saintly scholars of a noble art, hallowed jangling scripture with conviction, make our dream come true, authentic name behind what it is you do;

    comonavagoifyerfinkyerardnuff, recalibrate what’s spoken into the local stationary collapse of a Dylan poem spoken by Rich Jenkins, his first tongue Cymraeg and behind which was hidden a world of wishes at his command, warm words on a cold evening, lifting the latch to his door the embers from the open hearth warming his hands, may our heart be as light as a song, and happiness be guided to our home, a thousand welcomes when anyone comes, may the saints protect us, sorrow neglect us and angels bless us each step of the way through the recondite blather of a twisted dreamer’s mind wrought by the sea in Lillublodin Blatherlands in the neologistic post-modern inventions perfected by Beckett and Joyce, Hemingway and Steinberg, De Niro and Travolta, movie stars and literary gods Jenkins and Thomas, two Welsh souls they spoke in very deep tones, beer after beer, time after tear, tear after time, gimme gimme meaning yoll blow way goan mudderfugger stick ’em up hijack raid pillage, sneer a way victorious flight o American poets rhyming the impossible thought with night, day with flight, ay with eye and yew with ought Pre-Columbian come murmuring babble shamanic Geronimo into the unknown original and unread tears of time and time for tears wept at the side of open graves, sins, shames and the stain of worldly wickedness with which we’re all marked victims and perpetrators, torturers and enslaved, first peoples, modern Americans, us, and them a repugnant class taxing wealth takers extorting from hedge-funds demothicks bleating welfare queen takers the other half uncivilized human stupidity and waste deserving only opprobrium, hatred, scorn and the outraged expression of an extreme distaste demanding answers a majority of us, and when I say ‘us’ I mean the average American member of the general anonymous public, dismissing summat so big and deep and genuine we ignore it coz we cannot be bothered reading up on it coz we are all talk and no trousers falling into the naked failure of our lives with gusto and aplomb any reader stumbling into is immediately struck by how rococo it is, the world when read thru the lens of an American original like Charles Manson, Hart Crane, Thomas Brady, Graves or Auden, Yeats or Horniman, E, J, RFK, Jake LaMotta or Marilyn Monroe in pecan pie and apple tinted reams of fantasy America our Dream o Holy Nation Brave and True, Deliver US from Evil and, don’t laugh, inequality, the armored cars and federal tanks that come to take away our guns, when everyone will stand beneath the ones upon the wire balancing blancmange of state dept communiques from embassies in the Lulliblot Blatherlands, with national security measures keeping a Homeland safe, brave, true and shielded from that wicked worldly existence rendering horrific physical abuse on ‘terrorists’ in a network of secret torture factories.

    This is the first ten minutes part of the half hour Tribute to Dylan Thomas, the 1963 Documentary Short Subject oscar winner starring Richard Burton reading the words of his fellow Welsh friend, perfectly. He creates a version of Dylan that certainly didn’t hinder the successful reception of his poetry and, perhaps, was, partly at least, responsible, in whatever degree, for the elevated reputation that grew throughout Dylan’s live, clouding, perhaps, a more considered perspective time brings. I don’t really know.

  14. January 29, 2013 at 4:22 am

  15. January 29, 2013 at 4:24 am

  16. Interestedreader said,

    January 29, 2013 at 4:37 am

    http://nemomaimpunelacessit.blogspot.ca/

    Uncreative Writing ‏@UncreativeWriti
    Debord: “All material is usable by everyone, w/o acknowledgement or preoccupations of literary property. Make all détournements you wish.”
    Collapse Reply Retweet Favorite More

  17. Janey BooHoo said,

    January 29, 2013 at 4:42 am

    that come to take away our guns, when everyone will stand beneath the ones upon the wire balancing blancmange of state dept communiques from embassies in the Lulliblot Blatherlands, with national security measures keeping a Homeland safe, brave, true and shielded from that wicked worldly existence rendering horrific physical abuse on ‘terrorists’ in a network of secret torture factories. aplomb any reader stumbling into is immediately struck by how rococo it is, the world when read thru the lens of an American original like Charles Manson, Hart Crane, Thomas Brady, Graves or Auden, Yeats or Horniman, E, J, RFK, Jake LaMotta or Marilyn Monroe in pecan pie and apple tinted reams of fantasy America our Dream o Holy Nation Brave and True, Deliver US from Evil and, don’t laugh, inequality, the armored cars and federal tanks stupidity and waste deserving only opprobrium, hatred, scorn and the outraged expression of an extreme distaste demanding answers a majority of us, and when I say ‘us’ I mean the average American member of the general anonymous public, dismissing summat so big and deep and genuine we ignore it coz we cannot be bothered reading up on it coz we are all talk and no trousers falling into the naked failure of our lives with gusto and with eye and yew with ought Pre-Columbian come murmuring babble shamanic Geronimo into the unknown original and unread tears of time and time for tears wept at the side of open graves, sins, shames and the stain of worldly wickedness with which we’re all marked victims and perpetrators, torturers and enslaved, first peoples, modern Americans, us, and them a repugnant class taxing wealth takers extorting from hedge-funds demothicks bleating welfare queen takers the other half uncivilized human Lillublodin Blatherlands in the neologistic post-modern inventions perfected by Beckett and Joyce, Hemingway and Steinberg, De Niro and Travolta, movie stars and literary gods Jenkins and Thomas, two Welsh souls they spoke in very deep tones, beer after beer, time after tear, tear after time, gimme gimme meaning yoll blow way goan mudderfugger stick ‘em up hijack raid pillage, sneer a way victorious flight o American poets rhyming the impossible thought with night, day with flight, ay at his command, warm words on a cold evening, lifting the latch to his door the embers from the open hearth warming his hands, may our heart be as light as a song, and happiness be guided to our home, a thousand welcomes when anyone comes, may the saints protect us, sorrow neglect us and angels bless us each step of the way through the recondite blather of a twisted dreamer’s mind wrought by the sea in culture, sanitize our founding facts, transmute them into modern American myth, Godfather, Pulp Fiction, o inhabitants of darkness, noir, top o the world ma! saintly scholars of a noble art, hallowed jangling scripture with conviction, make our dream come true, authentic name behind what it is you do; comonavagoifyerfinkyerardnuff, recalibrate what’s spoken into the local stationary collapse of a Dylan poem spoken by Rich Jenkins, his first tongue Cymraeg and behind which was hidden a world of wishes of us (and when I say ‘us’ I mean the American public) have absolutely zero interest in knowing because a majority of us are taught to ignore everything but God, Guns, Freedom, America, and our dream of it, depending on where, what, how and when we sit, sue, prosecute and profit from it, o city shining on a high and hollow hill, America be true, America be brave, Columbia come wipe away the tears of the aboriginal duh dah deh dih, day doh doo dee die d’lidle tu-wit tu-wooing at the Celtic conundrum conflating in flyte what is wrong or is right, correct or inaccurate, kerching kerching kerching o the memory of it sings in Dylan drafted to life in the person of Richard Burton one can alas not produce here because of nazism in its most virulent form, liberal art in airy fairy passive-aggressive position, stance and prosecution demanding answers which a majority all things modo, of the moment, now, contemporary American talkers in bright bold mush, cool, detached and lofty orators aping toobs, ranting fools, foclo ‘word-weaving beginners’, MacFuirimid offspring of composition, dos bushy-tree shelterers, Cano cub-whelp, Cli pillar and pole, Anruth noble stream and poetry professor ollamhs, metaphorical masters and mistresses of ancient Cree deities, knowers of Graeco-Roman gods, from Apollo to Zeus, ‘Eamhain, of the Apple trees, of swans and yew trees’, Emerson, Eliot and Poe, doh Post-modern American poetry criticism exquisitely conducted on the branches of philosophical inquiry, in the salons of Cyberville. The mannered dictions, outrageous positions, sheer affronted vitality reflecting, perhaps, a wider, culturally divisive quality inherent in the political discourse and public discussion on the meaning of America and our dream of it as an abstract online entity existential only in a virtual realm, and in it filled with millions of brain-washed rednecks, deluded morons, fantastically eloquent experts on

  18. JIS support said,

    December 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Good review by JIS of a collection of E.E. Cummings’ plays:

    http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/The-theatre-of-E–E–Cummings-7619


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