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Illustrating America

Peter Campbell, 21 March 1985

Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture 
by Paul Cummings, Jorn Merkert and Claire Stoullig.
Norton, 308 pp., £35, August 1984, 0 393 01840 7
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Abstract Expressionist Painting in America 
by William Seitz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £59.95, February 1984, 0 674 00215 6
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About Rothko 
by Dore Ashton.
Oxford, 225 pp., £15, August 1984, 0 19 503348 5
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The Art of the City: Views and Versions of New York 
by Peter Conrad.
Oxford, 329 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 503408 2
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... The landmarks of New York – the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, the Rockefeller and World Trade Centres – have no ceremonial public function. Victories are consecrated in the streets, with ticker-tape falling. And New York painting is like New York celebrations: it has not been made for palaces and chapels. Reginald Marsh’s Coney Island bathers were its Three Graces, George Bellows’s boxers its Laocoon ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Buttocks Problem, 5 September 1996

... a different Milton and Shakespeare but to entirely unheard-of poets: Auden, Eliot, Hopkins, E.E. Cummings. These were taught by McEachran not as classroom fodder but as living poets. In that last summer of 1956 there was no cruelty or sadism endured or inflicted. I was sad to leave, and was naturally grateful to the public school system for its many ...

His Fucking Referendum

David Runciman: What Struck Cameron, 10 October 2019

For the Record 
by David Cameron.
William Collins, 732 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 0 00 823928 2
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... emailed to say he had changed his mind.’ Cameron responded with raw fury. ‘I smelt Dominic Cummings,’ he says, ‘and totally flipped.’ He called Gove to say that he refused to accept his email and was holding him to his previous agreement to take the job. He followed this up with a text: ‘You must realise I divide the world into team players and ...

Cardigan Arrest

Robert Potts: Poetry in Punglish, 21 June 2007

Look We Have Coming to Dover! 
by Daljit Nagra.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 571 23122 5
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... both forms of cultural atavism? In ‘Yobbos!’, Nagra complicates these issues further. Reading Paul Muldoon’s ‘sharp lemon-skinned/Collected Poems’ on the train home, he is abused by a racist passenger: ‘Some Paki shit, like,/eee’s loookin into!’ Finding Muldoon’s use of names like ‘Badhbh’, ‘Cailidin’ (both Gaelic) and ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... in which she would evolve from monkey to modern woman), Kurt Weill and Max Reinhardt, E.E. Cummings and Janet Flanner, Sartre and de Beauvoir. Alexander Calder’s wire caricature of her (it seems to move on the page of Petrine Archer-Straw’s book) was the prototype for his subsequent mobiles. ‘I never saw anybody move the way she did. She was part ...

Scandal in Pittsburgh

David Nasaw: Andrew Mellon, 19 July 2007

Mellon: An American Life 
by David Cannadine.
Allen Lane, 779 pp., £30, November 2006, 0 7139 9508 4
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... Andrew tried to talk her out of her ‘madness’. They stayed together, and had a second child, Paul, in 1907. In 1909, Nora, who had started seeing her lover again, once more asked her husband for a divorce and enough money to settle comfortably with the children in England: she could not, she insisted, live any longer in America. She ‘threatened to make ...

One Summer in America

Eliot Weinberger, 26 September 2019

... her back! Send her back!’*After the elderly and revered African American congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore threatens to subpoena Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to appear before his House Oversight Committee, the president tweets: ‘Cummings has been a brutal bully … Cumming District [sic] is a ...

Elegy for an Anarchist

George Woodcock, 19 January 1984

... poets – knew surprisingly little about American poets, except for the few, like Pound and Cummings, who set out to make themselves international figures. Thus it was not really surprising that, early in 1943, when I received a letter from a poet named Kenneth Rexroth in San Francisco, I knew nothing about his work or about the extraordinary life he ...

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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... had exhausted the poetic impulse. Nothing was left for us to do.’ The Chicago poet and editor Paul Carroll, born in 1926, wrote: To a young poet the scene in American verse in the late 1940s and early 1950s seemed much like walking down 59th Street in New York for the first time. Elegant and sturdy hotels and apartment buildings stand in the enveloping ...

Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris, 29 July 1999

Hannibal 
by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... and acquired the unlovely nickname of Buffalo Bill. (The name is from the eponymous poem by e.e. cummings: ‘how do you like your blueeyed boy/Mister Death’. ) On the walls of the cell are Lecter’s drawings; one over the sink shows the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, seen from the Belvedere. Lecter is lying on his bunk, perusing the Italian ...

Diary

David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue, 26 September 2013

... accused of recklessness at a town meeting in Arizona by a woman with a Syrian cousin. Senator Rand Paul, the white libertarian from Kentucky, and Congressman Elijah Cummings, the black liberal from Baltimore, reported alike that the people they saw in their home districts were opposed to an attack by almost a hundred to ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... In Frognal, Sayre met Charlie Chaplin (depicted as arrogant, politically obtuse and unfunny), Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois, the left-wing filmmakers Joseph Losey, Carl Foreman and Abraham Polonsky, the screenwriters Richard Collins, Ring Lardner Jr and Waldo Salt, the critics Harold Clurman and Ken Tynan, the musicians Larry Adler and Yip Harburg, as well ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

Omeros 
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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... most extended and schematic exorcism of history and mythology. The poem is – to borrow Paul Zweig’s phrase for ‘Song of Myself’ – a ‘therapeutic epic’. Each of its main characters represents an unfortunate aspect of the West Indian inheritance which, as the poem progresses, is either cured or comfortably accommodated. Philoctete, for ...

An UnAmerican in New York

Lewis Nkosi: Eric Walrond, 24 August 2000

Winds Can Wake Up the Dead: An Eric Walrond Reader 
edited by Louis Parascandola.
Wayne State, 350 pp., $24.95, December 1998, 0 8143 2709 5
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... was the toast of Paris. After seeing her in Chocolate Dandies, the Greenwich Village poet, e.e. cummings reported ecstatically that ‘she resembled some tall, vital, incomparably fluid nightmare which crossed its eyes, warped its limbs in a purely unearthly manner.’ The Lindy, the Charleston and blackbottom were in vogue in the dance halls and nightclubs ...

Professor or Pinhead

Stephanie Burt: Anne Carson, 14 July 2011

Nox 
by Anne Carson.
New Directions, 192 pp., £19.99, April 2010, 978 0 8112 1870 2
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... her own head, or in our time, or in the ancient world. Carson wrote in Economy of the Unlost that Paul Celan ‘uses language as if he were always translating’: we could say the same thing about her. Her translations usually sound like the rest of her poems, obtrusively contemporary but studiedly idiosyncratic, plainly weird (they may reflect their weird ...

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