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A Peacock Called Mirabell

August Kleinzahler: James Merrill, 31 March 2016

James Merrill: Life and Art 
by Langdon Hammer.
Knopf, 913 pp., £27, April 2015, 978 0 375 41333 9
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... James Merrill​ has in Langdon Hammer the biographer he would have wished for: intelligent, appreciative, sympathetic, thorough, a first-rate reader of the poems, and an excellent writer to boot. Merrill would have hated to be the subject of a plodding biography. He was all about stylishness and elegance, in poetry and in life ...

Remember the Yak

Michael Robbins: John Ashbery, 9 September 2010

Planisphere 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £12.95, December 2009, 978 1 84777 089 9
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... remembering forgetful yaks. Reviewing Notes from the Air (2007), a selection from the later poems, Langdon Hammer suggested that ‘Ashbery’s writing, whatever else it is about, is usually about other writing.’ This is a common claim, and it sounds smart, but one could just as easily say that Ashbery’s writing is usually about perceptual states, or ...

Roaring Boy

Adam Phillips: Hart Crane, 30 September 1999

The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane 
by Paul Mariani.
Norton, 492 pp., $35, April 1999, 0 393 04726 1
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O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane 
edited by Langdon Hammer and Brom Weber.
Four Walls Eight Windows, 562 pp., $35, July 1997, 0 941423 18 2
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... In so far as there was a shared response to Hart Crane’s poetry after his suicide in 1932, it took the form of invidious comparisons. ‘Crane had the sensibility typical of Baudelaire,’ R.P. Blackmur wrote in 1935, ‘and so misunderstood himself that he attempted to write The Bridge as if he had the sensibility typical of Whitman.’ Dylan Thomas’s poems, Randall Jarrell wrote in 1940, ‘often mean much less than Crane’s – but when you consider Crane’s meanings this is not altogether a disadvantage ...

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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... for the helpless or voiceless or overlooked has elicited from critics such as Stephen Burt and Langdon Hammer and James Longenbach favourable comparisons with the predatory, will-to-power poetics of Lowell, or the rampant self-aggrandising confessionalism of Berryman and Plath. Assessments of Jarrell as a poet inevitably play him off against his ...

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