Among the most notorious figures in twentieth century poetry, Ted Hughes will forever remain Sylvia Plath’s husband. They never officially divorced, leaving him heir and literary executor, so he couldn’t escape anyway. To quote Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, “deserve”‘s got nothing to do with it. Writing a craggy, gnarled poetry about animals at their mostContinue reading “‘The page is printed’”
On the occasion of reviewing a newly published anthology, After Dante: Poets in Purgatory, Judith Thurman ponders this thing called Purgatory, “this invention of a liminal space” where the repentant expiate their sings before their eventual ascension to Paradise.
© A24 / courtesy Everett Collection[/caption] The emergence of the Delta variant has quashed my interest in returning to live movie experiences, though several colleagues have claimed that if anything this skittishness has emptied theatres, thus reinforcing their safety. How I might’ve responded to The Green Knight on the big screen I’ll never know.
When poetry could still boast a faint cultural footprint Elizabeth Barret Browning ranked with Edgar Allan Poe Robert Frost as one of those poets whose lines the American public could recognize.
When I discovered Paul Bowles long ago I recognized the sensibility permeating Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg’s entertaining amalgam of William Burroughs fictions: a drollness precipitating the arrival of terrible violence. The Sheltering Sky could not help but impress a nineteen-year-old with a fetishistic glee for novels which clung as tightly to their secrets as DebraContinue reading “July readings”
The little known Louise Bogan wrote poems of chiseled beauty. is my favorite. As poetry editor for The New Yorker, she published Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams, among others. “The Alchemist” is one of my favorites. I dig these metaphysical conceits that teeter on the edge of camp. I burned my life, that IContinue reading “‘I broke my life, to seek relief…’”
Graham Greene never loitered, intentionally or otherwise. The writer who emerges from Richard Greene’s (no relation) new biography let wanderlust transform him into a polymath, comfortable with writing screenplays and film reviews, amiably distant from his children while committed to a Catholicism he on occasion interrogated. Crisply written if often miserly about analysis, The UnquietContinue reading “June reading”
As spare and precise about the symbolism of geography as James Wright, Jane Kenyon died of cancer too soon, leaving a handful of collections of her verse.
A colleague and lover of Ezra Pound before realizing her bisexuality, Hilda Doolittle (known as H.D.) emerged from his shadow shortly after her death.
Long in the shadow of her brother Dante Gabriel, Christina Rossetti wrote acerbic verse hidden in the brambles of nursery rhymes. She seemed, to quote Keats, half in love with easeful death; immortality didn’t interest her so much as the consequences of desire. No ascetic, she knew more about temptation than she lead on. IContinue reading “‘I never said I loved you, John…’”
Often formatted sideways like an ancient Greek shape poem, “Easter Wings” memorializes the sacrifice of Christ without getting flossy about it. In the twentieth century Frank O’Hara, May Swenson, and James Merrill tried shape poems. The lightness of Herbert’s touch makes his attempts unique. Note how the structure mirrors the speaker’s description of a descentContinue reading “‘Let me rise/as larks, harmoniously…’”
Once, this was a day of dedication. First the ritual, then the silence. The Catholic Church specialized in filling our imaginative and sacral crannies with noise: hymns, communal prayer, homilies, the clacking of plastic rosary beads. Good Friday service ends with the priest stripping the altar of its cloths: a symbol of Christ’s humiliation onContinue reading “‘First — Poets’: a Good Friday post”