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Venisti tandem

Denis Donoghue, 7 February 1985

Selected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Viking, 204 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 670 80040 6
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Palladas: Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Anvil, 47 pp., £2.95, October 1984, 9780856461279
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Men and Women 
by Frederick Seidel.
Chatto, 70 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2868 2
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Dangerous play: Poems 1974-1984 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 110 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 907540 56 2
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Mister Punch 
by David Harsent.
Oxford, 70 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211966 4
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An Umbrella from Piccadilly 
by Jaroslav Seifert and Ewald Osers.
London Magazine Editions, 80 pp., £5, November 1984, 0 904388 75 1
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... ascribing a multitude of experiences to one figure has been vigorously maintained, especially by John Berryman in Dream Songs, though in that case the necessary distinction between ‘Henry’ and Berryman didn’t survive the strain he put on it. In the end, Berryman overwhelmed ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... awestruck by the philosopher Owen Barfield, and had a quite saintly manner of carefulness with John Berryman, but, these things apart, the volume is quite fogged over with Bellow’s notion that replying to letters was nothing if not a complete and utter waste of time. To Ralph Ellison: ‘I’ve never enjoyed writing letters. Vasiliki says that ...

Self-Extinction

Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... as anything else about him. (The idea was already becoming familiar in the performing world, where John Barrymore, notably, had played out the end of his career surrounded by idiot-boards as an openly bog-eyed parody of his younger self.) It was in the Fifties, then, that America’s taste-makers finally stopped resisting the attractions of dissolution and ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... it still Connecticut, the dear deer, the steady lay, the unprivate walls?’ His correspondent, John Hohnsbeen, an art-dealer friend, was having an affair with the architect Philip Johnson, and the ‘unprivate walls’ are those of Johnson’s famous Glass House. Schuyler was 28 and this was his first serious mental breakdown. He had only recently arrived ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... the tense problem of the modern muse and the sexual prompt of modern art’, or that John Updike is largely concerned with ‘the revelation of form, the moment of aesthetic revelation in the contingencies of life’. Bradbury is just going through the motions, hastening from name to name, reciting worn-out academic phrases, too bored even to ...

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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Wolfwatching 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... artless: they unite poetry and epistemology more deeply and functionally than does, for instance, John Ashbery. When Carver in ‘Summer Fog’ imagines grieving for his wife, instead of vice versa, he instals poetry as the agent of knowing. ‘The Painter and the Fish’, a rich and witty version of Carver’s aesthetic, associates art with the need and lust ...

Lowellship

John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... relevant to Lowell’s ‘living name’, or to the seriousness with which it must be established. Berryman as a poet was not so different, but it is extremely relevant that Berryman, like other self-creating poets, had to invent a persona – that of ‘Anne Bradstreet’, or ‘Henry Pussycat’ – in order to become his ...

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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... too early. A full-of-himself student in Nashville in the 1930s, he was taken up by Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom, and most of his later academic appointments could be traced back to this connection. Not that Jarrell ever felt inclined to gratitude: another of his famous, and most joyous, thrusts as a reviewer was aimed at the vitals of his early Agrarian ...

Bad Character

Andrew O’Hagan: Saul Bellow, 21 May 2015

The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-64 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 812 pp., £35, May 2015, 978 0 224 08467 3
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... application, always tied, seldom happily, to a university department, and agonising over a book. John Updike, who had a modest two wives and wrote 63 books, was, in a way, worldlier and more comfortable, finding nests at the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books that he never left. These writers are dead now, and the only thing that can be said with ...

Mostly Middle

Michael Hofmann: Elizabeth Bishop, 8 September 2011

Poems 
by Elizabeth Bishop.
Chatto, 352 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8628 9
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... It is John Ashbery who takes the cake – in this case, the triple-decker cake with the solitary little sugar bride on top – for his description of Elizabeth Bishop: she is ‘the poets’ poets’ poet’. It sounds farcical, but it’s strictly true, and there’s as little getting round it as there is improving on it ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... imperialistic or infectious irony can be. Two notable warnings are not accommodated by Enright. John Crowe Ransom’s: ‘We should be so much in favour of tragedy and irony as not to think it good policy to require them in all our poems, for fear we might bring them into bad fame.’ And T.S. Eliot’s: ‘What we rebel against is neither the use of irony ...

What’s this?

Ian Sansom: A. Alvarez, 24 August 2000

Where Did It All Go Right? 
by A. Alvarez.
Richard Cohen, 344 pp., £20, September 1999, 1 86066 173 4
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... tethered, and ready for slaughter. In Where Did It All Go Right? Alvarez’s former friend John Wain receives the same treatment – punished for being feeble of mind and feeble of body – and there are numerous other little tussles and boasts. Alvarez is a writer who is certainly not oblivious of the extent of his own charms and perhaps he rather ...

Diary

Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... Montaigne, but was curiously silent about his many thefts from Burton. They were first spotted by John Ferriar, a Manchester physician, who in 1793 published a sympathetic but puzzled essay on Sterne’s indebtedness to the Anatomy: ‘I do not mean to treat him as a Plagiarist,’ he writes. ‘I wish to illustrate’ – to celebrate – ‘not to degrade ...

Toad in the Hole

Geoffrey Wall: Tristan Corbière, 16 July 1998

These Jaundiced Loves: A Translation of Tristan Corbière’s ‘Les Amours Jaunes’ 
by Christopher Pilling.
Peterloo, 395 pp., £14.95, April 1997, 1 871471 55 9
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... that expresses itself in the twisting and hammering of poetic form. Among recent poets, John Berryman comes to mind as the ideally mischievous, ideally anguished translator of Corbière. But Pilling has done the great service of putting back into general circulation a number of long-lost pieces. This volume represents the whole of Les Amours ...

Toolkit for Tinkerers

Colin Burrow: The Sonnet, 24 June 2010

The Art of the Sonnet 
by Stephanie Burt and David Mikics.
Harvard, 451 pp., £25.95, May 2010, 978 0 674 04814 0
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... Dante, Michelangelo and Shakespeare did, as well as more recent experimenters such as Hopkins, John Berryman or the sub-Prynnean Tony Lopez. Donne and Hopkins used sonnets as vehicles for religious anguish because it’s so easy to suggest that they’re buckling under pressure, that the spirit will not run true to the form, or to God. The sonnet has ...

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