Category Archives: Reading

James Wright on the Olympian syndicate

In 1958, in July, [Wright] wrote me a letter (I’m sure similar letters went to others) in which he announced that he was through writing poems. […] The first issue of Robert Bly’s magazine, The Fifties, which he read at … Continue reading

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Joseph Harrison on writing and Penelope

Penelope’s situation (in Homer, of course, it’s a death shroud she’s weaving) seems to me an interesting figure for the predicament of the writer or artist: making something, ripping it up, making something, ripping it up, all the while vaguely … Continue reading

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W. H. Auden on the function of poetry (1938)

The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient;I hope not. … Continue reading

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Leigh Hunt on reading poetry while eating (1821)

Every lover of books, scholar or not, who knows what it is to have his quarto open against a loaf at his tea … ought to be in possession of Mr. Coleridge’s poems, if it is only for ‘Christabel’, ‘Kubla … Continue reading

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Nicholas Lezard on the ghost stories of EF Benson (Guardian)

I wonder what it is that made the era so propitious for the production of this kind of story. (HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle were at it, too, among countless others.) One could propose a kind of morphic resonance, … Continue reading

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Robert Lowell and confessional poetry (Lost Puritan)

Soon Lowell walked in with several other dons, was introduced, and read. Afterwards, the don who’d introduced [Lowell] asked if there were any questions and, when no one raised their hand, [Michael] Waters asked Lowell about his confessional poems. At … Continue reading

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Susannah Herbert on not marketing poetry as a vitamin pill

The whole evangelical look-lovely-poems-are-good-for-you schtick assumes poetry is a precious endangered superfood, somewhere between a vitamin pill and a rare flower. Wrong. It should be ranked among life-forms that will survive nuclear holocaust: jellyfish, cockroaches, Millwall fans. Any effective campaign … Continue reading

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