How Platonism fascinates the poets, like a shining bait! In those alternate drives of the thought in his South Sea idyl clever as tennis play how he slips from phenomenon to idea and reverses, happy with either, it seems, "were t'other dear charmer away.
Jack Gilbert’s ‘Collected Poems’
His muse knew only earthly tongues,—so far as he understood. Why this persistent cling to mortality,—with its quick-coming cry against death and its heaped anathemas on the transformations of decay? It is the old story once more:—the vision of the first poets, the world that "passes away. The reflective mind of Arnold meditated it,—. Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.
He cannot forego his sensations, that "box of compacted sweets. So go, " with unreluctant tread. With what bitter savor, with what grossness of diction, caught from the Elizabethan and satirical elements in his culture, he spends anger in words! He reacts, he rebels, he storms. A dozen poems hardly exhaust his gall. And his anger once stilled by speech, what lassitude follows!
Life, in this volume, is hardly less evident by its ecstasy than by its collapse. It is a book of youth, sensitive, vigorous, sound; but it is the fruit of intensity, and bears the traits. The search for solitude, the relief from crowds, the open door into nature; the sense of flight and escape; the repeated thought of safety, the insistent fatigue, the cry for sleep;—all these bear confession in their faces.
At moments weariness set in like a spiritual tide. I associate, too, with such moods, psychologically at least, his visions of the "arrested moment," as in " Dining Room Tea ,"—a sort of trance state—or in the pendant sonnet. Analogous moods are not infrequent in the great poets. Rupert Brooke seems to have faltered, nervously, at times; these poems mirror faithfully such moments.
But even when the image of life, imaginative or real, falters so, how essentially vital it still is, and clothed in an exquisite body of words like the traditional "rainbow hues of the dying fish! So, when his pulse is at its lowest, he cannot forget the beautiful surface of his South Sea idyls or of versified English gardens and lanes. He cared as much for the expression as for the thing, which is what makes a man of letters.
So fixed is this habit that his art, truly, is independent of his bodily state. In his poems of "collapse" as in those of "ecstasy" he seems to me equally master of his mood,—like those poets who are "for all time. To come, then, to art, which is above personality, what of that? Art is, at most, but the mortal relic of genius; yet it is true of it that, like Ozymandias' statue, "nothing beside remains. He might have grown in variety, richness and significance, in scope and in detail, no doubt; but as an artisan in metrical words and pauses, he was past apprenticeship. He was still a restless experimenter, but in much he was a master.
In the brief stroke of description, which he inherited from his early attachment to the concrete; in the rush of words, especially verbs; in the concatenation of objects, the flow of things en masse through his verse, still with the impulse of "the bright speed" he had at the source; in his theatrical impersonation of abstractions, as in " The Funeral of Youth ," where for once the abstract and the concrete are happily fused;—in all these there are the elements, and in the last there is the perfection, of mastery. For one thing, he knew how to end.
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The brief stroke does this work time and time again in his verse, nowhere better than in "at dead Youth's funeral:" all were there,—. How vivid! The lines owe something to his eye for costume, for staging; but, as mere picture writing, it is as firm as if carved on an obelisk. And as he reconciled concrete and abstract here, so he had left his short breath, in those earlier lines, behind, and had come into the long sweep and open water of great style:—. Such lines as these, apart from their beauty, are in the best manner of English poetic style.
So, in many minor ways, he shuffled contrast and climax, and the like, adept in the handling of poetic rhetoric that he had come to be; but in three ways he was conspicuously successful in his art. Not to consider it too curiously, take " The Hill. The dramatic sonnet in English has not gone beyond that, for beauty, for brevity, for tragic effect,—nor, I add, for unspoken loyalty to reality. Reality was, perhaps, what he most dearly wished for; here he achieved it.
In many another sonnet he won the laurel; but if I were to venture to choose, it is in the dramatic handling of the sonnet that he is most individual and characteristic. The second great success of his genius, formally considered, lay in the narrative idyl, either in the Miltonic way of flashing bits of English country landscape before the eye, as in " Grantchester ," or by applying essentially the same method to the water world of fishes or the South Sea world, both on a philosophic background.
These are all master poems of a kaleidoscopic beauty and charm, where the brief pictures play in and out of a woven veil of thought, irony, mood, with a delightful intellectual pleasuring. He thoroughly enjoys doing the poetical magic. The thought of Milton and of Marvell only adds an old world charm to the most modern of the works of the Muses. What lightness of touch, what ease of movement, what brilliancy of hue! One of the most important poets of our time. Her originality, her genius, her courage illuminate our century.
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The editors of this invaluable volume have made accessible a major American poet and a soulful humanist. One of the most admired poets of the American left, Rukeyser is in the midst of a revival: this enormous collection should help keep the spotlight on her work. Anne F. Cover Image. Kaufman , Anne F. Rukeyser appears more and more as an exemplary American modernist, the lyric poet of epic awareness. Her Collected Poems is a monument of the last century, a gift to the present and a hope for the future. His poem Sunday Morning is a great start. The subject is a woman who chooses to skip a Sunday morning church service: …Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun… …Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? So, one gets a poet to translate. There is an undercurrent of heavy-sighed romanticism in many of the poems, which to me comes across as far too maudlin and melodramatic; but the way he wrestles with philosophical ideas like the tension between appearance and reality, and description versus impression, piqued my interest the most. He looks a matter in the eyeballs, and calls back to the rest of us convention-lubbers what we might see if we were brave enough to look directly at death, suffering, boredom, danger, beauty, and existence as it is.
Sometimes a line would emerge like a piece of clear sky from out a hole in a complex and clouded poem, and a message would be delivered. There are secrets there. For more reviews, visit my blog, www. Aug 29, Jeff Crompton rated it it was amazing. I'm marking this book as "read," although I'm not sure I've read every poem. This is certainly not a book which can be read cover-to-cover in a few sittings, at least not by someone of my intellect. I fell in love with Stevens' famous "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" during my freshman year in college.
The images were striking and beautiful, even though I didn't understand what the poem was about.
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But the mystery was part of the appeal. I "understand" the poem more now, but there will a I'm marking this book as "read," although I'm not sure I've read every poem. I "understand" the poem more now, but there will always be an element of mystery to it, and to all of Stevens' poetry. Stevens' poetry is difficult; I don't see any other way to put it. Even when he uses simple language, his word choices and sentence construction can be strange and puzzling. Here's a fairly short poem which I mostly "get," "Anecdote of the Jar": I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill. The wilderness rose up to it, And sprawled around, no longer wild.
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