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A Candle

Brad Leithauser, 10 May 1990

... According to your point of view, it stands for love – or hell posed starkly. I’m thinking of the single fellow who cowers darkly, as though with shame, there at the blue-yellow centre of the flame ...


Brad Leithauser, 9 June 1994

... The goal I suppose is a steadied mind – to replace with wood and stone and insulated wire what was contrived of flesh and bone, blood and blood’s desire; isn’t the final end to find that haven where where you are matters as much to me as whether or not, on another block, the wind’s now rousing a tree ...

Another Dream

Brad Leithauser, 7 October 1993

...              Unreckonable,           the distance crossed to reach        the dark before this lighted ledge no      deeper than a bookshelf, holding a white beach    with two live finger-puppet figures – but here   you stand, stooping before them, nonetheless. You’ve made it; lean closer; and surely, yes that is the smell of brine ...

A Bowl of Chinese Fireworks

Brad Leithauser, 27 October 1988

... Late afternoon light, and such a pretty touch – the way the sun, slow- wheeling down the wall in a fall of white on white, clear into gold explodes just upon reaching the bowl of elaborate, illicit fireworks reserved for this evening’s party. Not until the night has grown into its own at last, drinks downed, dinner in all its courses done, and the guests, trailing bright inquisitive laughter, led out onto the black lawn, will the show start, but already now, at the sun’s touch, it’s as if a new phase has come, a fuse begun to sizzle ...

A Night Dive

Brad Leithauser, 2 February 1989

...   It feels so much Like waking, this Rising after Forty minutes Under forty Feet of water; And to fill your Life-vest, breath by Breath, while floating Nearer a moon Mounted just high Enough to have Lost all trace of Gold and have turned A cool silver Is seemingly To come at once Greatly before The drawing source Of every blood-   Tide sleeplessness ...


Brad Leithauser, 7 December 1989

... Impulse alone, indicating what might be called a byway off a detour’s detour, led me suddenly to stop the car, rented in Reykjavik the week before, zip my parka tight to the chin, and, bare hands balled in its pockets, strike off briskly, as though by plan, toward a rough- angled, distant shoreline. Now if one were assembling, as I guess I was, some sort of file entitled Uninviting Vistas, here was one – grayly colourless, hugely creatureless – demanding pride of place: a laval sea of stone extending mile upon mile, and all of it still brokenly flowing, in lichen-whitecapped waves, toward a gray, cold, contrarily breaking sea ...

Basically Evil

Brad Leithauser, 12 May 1994

The Plum in the Golden Vase or Chin P’ing Mei. Vol I: The Gathering 
translated by David Tod Roy.
Princeton, 610 pp., £24.95, December 1993, 0 691 06932 8
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... From the outset, ambiguity enfolds The Plum in the Golden Vase, David Tod Roy’s translation of the first volume of the monumental 16th-century Chinese novel Chin P’ing Mei. The title, as he explains in his Introduction, is a ‘multiple pun’ composed of one ideogram each from the names of the three principal female protagonists. It translates literally as Gold Vase Plum ...

Broadening Ocean

Brad Leithauser, 3 March 1988

Natural Causes 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 57 pp., £4.95, August 1987, 9780701132712
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A Short History of the Island of Butterflies 
by Nicholas Christopher.
Viking, 81 pp., $17.95, January 1986, 0 670 80899 7
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... Two poets, writing in nearly the same language (British English, American English) and born at nearly the same time (1952, 1951). One, Andrew Motion, is quite well-known in this country, though an unfamiliar name to most readers of verse in America. The other, Nicholas Christopher, is one of the most celebrated of America’s younger poets but – I suspect – an unknown figure in England, at least as a poet (his novel, The Soloist, was published by Pan last year ...

Narrow Places

Brad Leithauser, 15 October 1987

Selected Poems 
by Molly Holden.
Carcanet, 126 pp., £6.95, June 1987, 0 85635 696 4
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The Player Queen’s Wife 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 78 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 571 14998 7
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The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill 
by Stephen Yenser.
Harvard, 367 pp., £21.95, June 1987, 0 674 16615 9
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... In ‘Barn Roof’, one of her earliest poems, Molly Holden speaks of ‘quarried colours’. The phrase says much about both her artistic ambitions, which strove endlessly after fresh visual detail, and her poetic methods, which often relied upon boldly proximate alliteration and what might be called off-off-rhyme. In the best of her poems, many of which were written at the outset of her career, a keen eye for the natural world conjoins with an ear subtly attuned to internal modulations; her most interesting aural effects often arise not in her end-rhymes but within the individual line ...

Every three years

Blake Morrison, 3 March 1988

Fifty Poems 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 51 pp., £4.95, January 1988, 0 571 14920 0
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A Various Art 
edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville.
Carcanet, 377 pp., £12.95, December 1987, 0 85635 698 0
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Between Leaps: Poems 1972-1985 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 81 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 19 282089 3
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by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 71 pp., £4.50, October 1987, 0 905291 88 3
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by John Ash.
Carcanet, 127 pp., £6.95, September 1987, 0 85635 695 6
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The Automatic Oracle 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 72 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 19 282088 5
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by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3313 9
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... Olson and Pound. That there are other traditions to look to these days is clear from the American Brad Leithauser’s Between Leaps, a book notable for itself looking back across the Atlantic. Not many American poets do glance backwards these days, and most of the ones that do write light verse. Leithauser has a ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... to madness than to method.’ (Fiedler’s remarks, I notice, are cited on the back jacket of Brad Leithauser’s useful new selection from Jarrell’s prose, but the reference to madness has been cut. The quotation ends with ‘What unfailing taste he possessed’ – full stop.) Jarrell, as Robert Lowell once observed, was actually more of a ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... so good at saying, albeit indirectly. MacCaig’s work illustrates the point from both sides. As Brad Leithauser’s poems reveal, skilled and strictly regular verse is sometimes much closer to prose than it may appear. Leithauser’s second collection (to be published in Britain), The Mail from Anywhere, opens with ...

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