‘All Nature welcomes Her…’

Spend too long gazing at the face of God and the rest of one’s days descend into pedantry. One of the innovators in English poetry, William Wordsworth peaked early: the textbook example of reactionism taking the place of youthful radicalism. Yet I’m the weirdo who swooned over an excerpt from The Prelude we senors hadContinue reading “‘All Nature welcomes Her…’”

‘The palm at the end of the mind…’

When I was still a Catholic, the sense of anticipation ofPalm Sunday rendered mute and useless the jockeying for space in the pews for once-a-year worshipers fighting over the consecrated fronds. For Wallace Stevens, the palm stood for the mystery of the fictive muse, as his last published poem “Of Mere Being” shows. The palmContinue reading “‘The palm at the end of the mind…’”

‘Make/a mockery out of our darkness…’

A Pennsylvanian whose poems boast the occasional demotic intensity, Gerald Stern has quietly amassed a slim collection of lasting work, most of which he collected in Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems, winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize. I enjoy the booming opening of “Swifts”. Bing Crosby died in Spain while playing golf with Franco butContinue reading “‘Make/a mockery out of our darkness…’”

‘Without thinking you were alive again’ — A World AIDS Day poem

An elegist of concision, Mark Doty came of age poetically as a generation realized HIV/AIDS would not permit them the free hand their forefathers had enjoyed. His 1996 memoir Heaven’s Coast, a ruthless accounting of a lover’s decline and fall, remains one of the decade’s best. I’ve dipped into his poetry once in a while;Continue reading “‘Without thinking you were alive again’ — A World AIDS Day poem”

‘No more walks in the wood…’

A verse traditionalist whose name as editor on many anthologies I used and taught in class, John Hollander is easy to confuse with Donald Hall the same way I once did W.S. Merwin and James Merrill, not to mention Robert Pinksy and Robert Hass or Charles Wright and James Wright (though Merrill turned out theContinue reading “‘No more walks in the wood…’”

‘The page is printed’

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’”

The ponderous ‘The Green Knight’ takes too long to tell story

© 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.

July readings

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”

‘I broke my life, to seek relief…’

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…’”