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Posts Tagged ‘Art of Poetry’

Talking Tate: A Fake Oral History

November 19, 2014 | by

allen tate

Photo: Library of Congress

There’s no Writers at Work interview with Allen Tate—who was born today in 1899—but his name seems to pop up in nearly everyone else’s. By my count, he has cameos in nineteen of our interviews; he shuffles onstage to offer an apercu or to help someone or to drink or to be carried down a flight of stairs. And then he leaves.

Tate ran in many circles, in part because his teaching allowed him to move around so much. At one point or another he crossed paths with an astonishing number of his fellow writers: Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell, most prominently, but also Randall Jarrell, John Gould Fletcher, John Crowe Ransom, John Berryman, and Andrew Lytle. His walk-ons in The Paris Review interviews testify to his influence not just as a poet but as a friend. If you read these mentions of him in succession, as a kind of patchwork oral history, you get a strangely gratifying secondhand sense of the man, as if someone had painted his portrait based only on a description. Let’s give it a try— Read More »

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Constant Freshness

June 12, 2014 | by

wright

A manuscript page from “Reading Rorty and Paul Celan One Morning in Early June,” an unpublished—or at least unpublished ca. 1989—poem by Charles Wright.

Congratulations to Charles Wright, who was announced today as America’s next poet laureate. James Billington, the librarian of Congress, said that Wright’s poems have “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness” and commended his “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility—it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.”

Wright has received, as the Times notes, “just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.”

The Paris Review interviewed Charles Wright in 1989 for the Art of Poetry series; he said of the form, 

There seem to me to be certain absolutes in whatever field of endeavor one is in. In business and banking they may be availability and convertibility, security and safekeeping, minimal loss and steady, incremental accession. I don’t think it’s that way in poetry, though such values will get you to temporary high places. Brilliance is what you reach for, language that has a life of its own, seriousness of subject matter beyond the momentary gasp and glitter, a willingness to take on what’s difficult and beautiful, a willingness to be different and abstract, a willingness to put on the hair shirt and go into the desert and sit still, and listen hard, and write it down, and tell no one.

We’re happy to have published six of Wright’s poems in our Summer 2008 issue. Here’s one of them, “In Memory of the Natural World”:

Four ducks on the pond tonight, the fifth one MIA.
A fly, a smaller than normal fly,
Is mapping his way through sun-strikes across my window.

Behind him, as though at attention,
                                                                         the pine trees hold their breaths.
The fly’s real, the trees are real,
And the ducks.
                                   But the glass is artificial, and it’s on fire.

We wish Wright all the best in his new role.

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Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress

May 7, 2014 | by

Archibald_MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish in 1944. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Today brought welcome news that the New York Public Library has abandoned its plan to “renovate” (i.e., reduce and/or ruin) its research flagship at Bryant Park, on Forty-Second Street. The renovation would have meant removing the stacks beneath the main reading room, thus displacing an untold number of books and research materials; the plan met with derision among scholars and authors, and a piece in the Times last year by Michael Kimmelman made an elegant case against it.

And wouldn’t you know it—today is also Archibald MacLeish’s birthday. His 1974 Art of Poetry interview is great reading, but given the news of the day, and given his role as the Librarian of Congress—a position he held from 1939 to 1944—it seems fitting to peruse his 1940 essay, “The Librarian and the Democratic Process,” which addresses … well, not many of the same issues at stake in the NYPL’s renovation controversy. It was 1940; the world was on the brink of war, and digitization was not a going concern for librarians. But the piece does find MacLeish asking, in a sweeping, stentorian tone: What is a librarian supposed to do, anyway? Read More »

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Jack Gilbert, 1925–2012

November 13, 2012 | by

“Being alive is so extraordinary I don’t know why people limit it to riches, pride, security—all of those things life is built on. People miss so much because they want money and comfort and pride, a house and a job to pay for the house. And they have to get a car. You can’t see anything from a car. It’s moving too fast. People take vacations. That’s their reward—the vacation. Why not the life?” —The Art of Poetry No. 91

 

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