Why am I so attracted to British poets these days? I’ve just gone thru binges of reading Geraldine Monk, John Wilkinson, & most recently Robert Sheppard, & am right now in the delighted middle of Alan Halsey’s Not Everything Remotely: Selected Poems 1978-2005. Part of it I suspect is just unreconstructed anglophilia, of the sort that keeps me watching Monty Python & listening to the Watersons. But there’s also a different relationship to language, to history in these poets that I’m fascinated by.
I learn from Henry Gould (I often learn from HG) that the Library of America has just put out a Hart Crane volume, edited by Langdon Hammer (fellow biographer – he of James Merrill; once we sat together on a panel in the strangest conference I’ve ever attended, smack in the middle of WCW’s Paterson – a strange event I’ll probably recount someday). Crane’s always been one of my blind spots – a poet I just don’t get, despite a semi-annual hauling down of my copy of Complete Poems & Selected Letters (ed. Brom Weber, in the old “Anchor Literary Library” edition, with HC staring balefully over a cigar on the cover) & a re-reading of "The Bridge" & whatever else catches my eye. Time for another try, I think.
By my count, Crane (born 1899) is the youngest of the modern poets to appear in the LOA’s flagship series (the others being Frost, Pound, Stevens, & Stein). It is of course high time for a real LZ volume – not to slight the selection Charles Bernstein did for the LOA’s “Poets Project,” but I worry that getting into the PP (nicely produced but all too short pocket-sized selecteds) is gonna become a de facto consolation prize for not getting a full treatment: We’ve recognized you, lad/lass (addressed to Yvor Winters, Muriel Rukeyser, LZ, etc.) – now fuck along & stop dreaming of those big black covers with their little redwhite&blue stripe. But when oh when will the WCW and Moore volumes arrive?
Hugh Kenner once bitched that the LOA format was far inferior to that of the Pléiade, & he’s right: the books are too big, the gutter too narrow, not enough notes, covers easily stained etc. Shopping tip for Poundians: next time you’re in Rome, pick up the Mondadori Pléiade-style edition of I Cantos – translation by Mary de Rachewiltz, tons of notes in the back, & an English text that’s much better than the thing New Directions keeps tossing at us year after year.
Clever but stupid. I’ve grown from being a brash, self-centered, clever but stupid young person to a timid, self-centered, clever but stupid greybeard, in whom a demon of wholly unwarranted ambition struggles with a torpid Oblomov who’d prefer to sit and read. (The Demon of Consumption – to eat books like deep-fried snacks.)
Why are so many academics unhappy?, asks J. “The best job in the world,” after all, once you factor out fiscal remuneration. It’s the element of self-examination, or an uglier gnawing spur “that the clear spirit doth raise / (That last infirmity of Noble mind) / To scorn delights, and live laborious days.”
Dave Parks weighs in with entry #2 on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory.