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Pareto and Elitism

Geoffrey Hawthorn

3 July 1980
The Other Pareto 
edited by Placido Bucolo.
Scolar, 308 pp., £15, April 1980, 0 85967 516 5
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Elitism 
by G. Lowell Field and John Higley.
Routledge, 135 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7100 0487 7
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Elites in Australia 
by John Higley and Don Smart.
Routledge, 317 pp., £9.50, July 1979, 9780710002228
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... defence of that support, one can reasonably agree that for most of the Western democracies the perception which led to it, of a weak middle class, now has little to be said for it. This is not, as LowellField and John Higley point out in their brief and bluff tract, because it is unarguably true that representative democracy works on an agreed middle ground. As John Plamenatz insisted several years ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman

1 July 2015
The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... later ‘killed’: The jolly old man is a silly old dumb with a mean face, humped, who kills dead. There is a tall who loves only him. She has sworn ‘Blue to you forever, Gray to the little rat, go to bed.’ I fink it’s bads all over.It ends: Henry and Mabel ought to but can’t. Childness let’s have us honey –‘It set the prosodic pattern,’ Berryman told the interviewer, Peter Stitt ...

Excusez-moi

Ian Hamilton

1 October 1987
The Haw-Lantern 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 52 pp., £7.95, June 1987, 0 571 14780 1
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... been ‘formed by the dolorous murmurings of the rosary, and the generally Marian quality of devotion’ afforded by the Roman Church – a Church to which Heaney, even in his twenties, continued to go for confession and which ‘permeated’ the whole life of his Northern Ireland childhood. Thanks to this Church, its doctrines and its rituals, Heaney’s sensibility was from the start centred in ...
5 December 1991
Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life 
by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 335 pp., $25, April 1990, 0 374 24677 7
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Randall Jarrell: Selected Poems 
edited by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 115 pp., $17.95, April 1990, 0 374 25867 8
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... interests me more, I think, than that of the other younger people.’ Wilson’s sensibility did not fail him. Jarrell became critic, adviser and friend of the best poets in his own generation, Lowell and Berryman among them. ‘He was Randall Jarrell/ and wrote a-many books – he wrote well,’ run a couple of pretty bad lines in a Berryman ‘Dream Song. Lowell also paid tribute to his ...

The Price

Dan Jacobson: The concluding part of Dan Jacobson’s interview with Ian Hamilton

21 February 2002
... This is the second part of a two-part interview. Part 2: ‘The Price’. I want to ask you about Robert Lowell: as an influence on your work, that is, and only then as what he later became – a ‘Life’, the subject of your first full-length biography. You did and do admire him greatly as a poet, yet in ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney

3 June 2015
New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... Robert Lowell​ has a poem called ‘Picture in The Literary Life, a Scrapbook’ which begins: A mag photo, I before I was I, or my books – a listener … A cheekbone gumballs out my cheek; too much live hair ...
27 May 1993
E.E. CummingsComplete Poems 1904-1962 
edited by George​ Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £33, January 1993, 0 87140 145 2
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... but in the way exceptional students learn from one another, about the new art (Cézanne, Matisse, Duchamp, Brancusi), the new music (Satie, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Scriabin), the new literature (Amy Lowell, Stein, Pound, Eliot, Joyce), and was bold enough to give a graduation address in 1915 referring to most of these and insisting on ‘the unbroken chain of artistic development during the last hall ...
8 November 1979
Field​ Work 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 64 pp., £3, June 1979, 0 571 11433 4
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... Was easy prey to his malignancy … The word ‘prey’ feels how intimate may be the bonds between trusting and tasting. Both the first and this last poem in the book speak of ‘my tongue’. Field Work is alive with trust (how else would field work be possible?), and it could have been created only by an experienced poet secure in the grounded trust that he is trusted. Heaney is the most ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange​ Mlinko: Imagism

25 March 2010
The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... famous aperçu, ‘On or about December 1910, human character changed.’ But by the time we get to Vorticism, with which Pound was hoping to render Imagism – now led by his arch-enemy Amy Lowell – passé, a question irresistibly presents itself. When a poet has made it his life’s work to change a period’s style, and pursues his aim by means of confrontation and relentless promotion of ...

Door Closing!

Mark Ford: Randall Jarrell

21 October 2010
Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy 
by Randall Jarrell.
Chicago, 277 pp., £10.50, April 2010, 978 0 226 39375 9
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... d’être was the professionalisation of responses to literature, and yet he managed to retain the power to read, and to talk about his reading, with the excitement of a child. ‘Child Randall’, Lowell addresses him, inevitably, in the second of his sonnets for Jarrell, the one that restages his friend’s peculiar death (Jarrell was sideswiped by a car in the course of an evening walk): black ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning,​ Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... A man of many literary parts, Ian Hamilton came to biography late and triumphantly with his life of the dead but still warm Robert Lowell. Riding high, he went on to attempt an unauthorised life of the aged but very much alive J.D. Salinger and was comprehensively outfoxed by the second most reclusive man in American letters. Hamilton ...

Two Jackals on a Leash

Jamie McKendrick: Eugenio Montale

1 July 1999
Eugenio Montale: Collected Poems 1920-54 
translated by Jonathan Galassi.
Carcanet, 626 pp., £29, November 1998, 1 85754 425 0
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... squadri da ogni lato’, which Galassi translates: Don’t ask us for the word to frame our shapeless spirit on all sides and proclaim it in letters of fire to shine like a lone crocus in a dusty field. Ah, the man who walks secure, a friend to others and himself, indifferent that high summer prints his shadow on a peeling wall! Don’t ask us for the phrase that can open worlds, just a few ...

Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann

15 August 1991
Seeing things 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 113 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 571 14468 3
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... is better understood as having been distilled from ‘I must be seeing things’, said seriously, and with a fair amount of stress on the ‘I must’. The greatest difficulty for the poet is how to go on being one. Randall Jarrell set it out like this at the end of his essay on Stevens: ‘A man who is a good poet at 40 may turn out to be a good poet at 60; but he is more likely to have stopped ...

Kerfuffle

Zoë Heller: Ronald Reagan

2 March 2000
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 874 pp., £24.99, October 1999, 0 00 217709 9
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... Reagan’s exact height and weight, his ‘shallow chest’, ‘adolescent coarseness’, myopia (‘I sensed that he was reacting to sound rather than sight’) and ‘lynx-like momentum’ on the field. A little later on, he comes across Reagan working as a lifeguard at Lowell Park Beach and accumulates more elaborately detailed information about his physical build, his swimming stroke and his ...

Places Never Explained

Colm Tóibín: Anthony Hecht

8 August 2013
The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht 
edited by Jonathan Post.
Johns Hopkins, 365 pp., £18, November 2012, 978 1 4214 0730 2
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... heightened images of tension and disruption in her poems of the 1940s may have had other sources too, but the war made its way into the nervous system of her poems indirectly and mysteriously. Robert Lowell was a high-profile conscientious objector, writing to Roosevelt in September 1943 with a ‘Declaration of Personal Responsibility’ which objected to the mining of the Ruhr Dams and the bombing of ...

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