POETS ON POETRY by Howard-Ed. Nemerov


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Robert Lowell once said he would rather read poets on poetry than any other kind of criticism. One wonders whether with the assemblage Howard Nemerov has gathered, Lowell will have a feast or merely eat his words. In this reviewer's estimation none of the nineteen well-known contributors document anything of importance. Indeed, with rare exceptions, most are cautiously, crudely or just too quaintly tooting their own horns. And, alas, those who are most earnest generally make no sense at all, vide Gregory Corso's intellectual soap bubbles. Or take Jack Gilbert. He titles his very serious account ""The Landscape of Poetry in 1964,"" disengaging himself from the doldrums of the Academy and the rumble of the Underground, calling for, instead, a return to the singers ""of love and death, good and evil, lust, honor, and the other major businesses of life."" But his argument is forever floundering in simplistic rhetoric, and when he approvingly cites a quotation of the editor's-""Civilization, mirrored, in language, is the garden where relations grow; outside the garden is the wild abyss""- he is blithely unaware that it runs counter to everything he has been saying. Further he foolishly appends a poem of his own as an example of what true poetry can do. Questions of aesthetic, philosophy, technique, convictions and so forth, along with some interesting resumes of stylistic changes (John Berryman's essay is the most useful here), as well as biographical digressions, make up the customary pattern. Aiken, Eberhart, Miss Moore, Wilbur, Robert Duncan, Reed Whitemore, etc., are others involved.

Publisher: Basic Books