JOURNALS: 1939-1983 by Stephen Spender
Kirkus Star

JOURNALS: 1939-1983

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Sir Stephen's journals are insightful, sometimes moving, cheerfully unsystematic, thoroughly guileless, and full of good humor. These informal notes form a lively, evolving autobiography, and most importantly, offer an internal view of the poetic process and attitude. The collection creates a self-portrait that inspires affection and respect. Reading his own journals over, Spender notes ""the sense of myself rushing (a brutal hurry)."" He does travel a wide literary circuit of professorships, symposia, and cocktail parties--the datelines of his journals span the globe from Corfu to Hiroshima to Iowa--and he is forever balancing a half-dozen projects at once, yet the image of the poet that emerges is in no ""brutal hurry."" Despite his vulnerability to criticism, his creative straggles, and his ideological causes, Spender's journals reveal a man profoundly at peace with the world. No ""mad poet,"" he is tolerant, even-tempered, patient. Of those who were truly great, he thinks, but not continually. Greatness and immortality do not obsess him. W.H. Auden said that his friend ""really wanted to be a saint,"" but Spender's life--like his poetry--is not otherworldly, but of the here and now, clearly visible and firmly tangible. The journals have their share of literary gossip and anecdote. Among the players are Auden, T.S. Eliot, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, and David Hockney. Above all, though, these notes are revelations of the writer him-self. Here is a poet's mind made accessible, in the process of transforming experience into words, in the lifelong struggle with the limitations of language. Here is a poet of the world, not sequestered in his garret, but lecturing, reading, teaching, even appearing on the Dick Cavett show. An intriguing, delightful collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Random House