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Pioneers

Christopher Reid

3 September 1981
Some Americans: A Personal Record 
by Charles Tomlinson.
California, 134 pp., £6.50, June 1981, 0 520 04037 6
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... Charles Tomlinson writes, ‘to have met the innovators of one’s time only when age had overtaken them.’ The innovators to whom he refers are those American poets – Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, WilliamCarlosWilliams and others – whose work and moral example have been of importance to his own growth as a writer. The sentence quoted above, with its tinge of elegy and irony, occurs in the fourth ...

In the Circus

William​ Wootten: Low-Pressure Poetry

3 August 2006
The Collected Poems 
by Kenneth Koch.
Knopf, 761 pp., £40, November 2005, 1 4000 4499 5
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... Kenneth Koch (pronounced ‘coke’) could do a mean impersonation of WilliamCarlosWilliams. ‘This is Just to Say’, Williams’s note asking forgiveness for eating the plums in the icebox which ‘you were probably/saving/for breakfast’ on the grounds that they were ‘so sweet/and so cold’, gets the Koch treatment in ...

Chicory and Daisies

Stephanie Burt: William Carlos Williams

7 March 2002
Collected Poems: Volume I 
by William Carlos Williams, edited by A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan.
Carcanet, 579 pp., £12.95, December 2000, 1 85754 522 2
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Collected Poems: Volume II 
by William Carlos Williams, edited by A. Walton Litz and Christopher MacGowan.
Carcanet, 553 pp., £12.95, December 2000, 1 85754 523 0
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... The painters have paid too much attention to the ism and not enough to the painting,’ WilliamCarlosWilliams wrote in 1928. Something similar could be said about Williams’s own critics: since his death in 1963, attention to his theories and to his life has been getting in the way of his poems. With Williams, more than the usual number of isms and caricatures need to ...

This Condensery

August Kleinzahler: In Praise of Lorine Niedecker

5 June 2003
Collected Works 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
California, 471 pp., £29.95, May 2002, 0 520 22433 7
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Collected Studies in the Use of English 
by Kenneth Cox.
Agenda, 270 pp., £12, September 2001, 9780902400696
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New Goose 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
Listening Chamber, 98 pp., $10, January 2002, 0 9639321 6 0
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... dairy country of south-central Wisconsin with a population of around eight thousand. The state capital, Madison, is 34 miles north-west and Milwaukee about 60 miles away, east-northeast. Jonathan Williams, of Jargon Press, visited Niedecker in 1962, a year before her second marriage to Albert Millen and subsequent move to Milwaukee: Miss Niedecker, I guess in her fifties by now, lives in a tiny green ...

Heavy Lifting

John Palattella: John Ashbery

7 June 2001
Other Traditions 
by John Ashbery.
Harvard, 168 pp., £15.50, October 2000, 0 674 00315 2
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John Ashbery and American Poetry 
by David Herd.
Manchester, 245 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 7190 5597 0
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... Raymond Roussel – he reads habitually ‘in order to get started; a poetic jump-start for times when the batteries have run down’. The surprise is that instead of lecturing on Wallace Stevens, WilliamCarlosWilliams, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Gertrude Stein and Marianne Moore, all of whom he acknowledges as ‘major influences’, he discusses an eclectic group of 19th and 20th-century poets ...
1 May 1980
Five American Poets 
by John Matthias, introduced by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £3.25, November 1979, 0 85635 259 4
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The New Australian Poetry 
edited by John Tranter.
Makar Press, 330 pp., £6.50, November 1979
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Carpenters of Light 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 154 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 85635 305 1
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Mirabell: Books of Number 
by James Merrill.
Oxford, 182 pp., £3.25, June 1979, 0 19 211892 7
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The Book of the Body 
by Frank Bidart.
Faber, 44 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 374 11549 4
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Skull of Adam 
by Stanley Moss.
Anvil, 67 pp., £2.50, May 1979, 0 85646 041 9
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Poems 1928-1978 
by Stanley Kunitz.
Secker, 249 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 436 23932 9
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... post-Modernism’) after the Second. Beats, Black Mountain Poets, the New York school of the Fifties – all these and others, though clearly different, are unimaginable without Pound, early Eliot, WilliamCarlosWilliams and perhaps Wallace Stevens as forerunners. This is the main stream of modern American poetry. In England the picture is very different. Pound is grudgingly acknowledged, distrusted ...

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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... Seeing things, Seamus Heaney’s ninth volume of new poems, is aimed squarely at transcendence. The title has a humble and practical WilliamCarlosWilliams ring to it, but that is misleading. It 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 ...

Fast Water off the Bow-Wave

Jeremy Harding: George Oppen

21 June 2018
21 Poems 
by George Oppen, edited by David B. Hobbs.
New Directions, 48 pp., £7.99, September 2017, 978 0 8112 2691 2
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... that laid the foundations of his later reputation as a radical elder who had done his best to ‘make it new’. It included a short, boisterous preface by Pound. Reviewing it for Poetry in 1934, WilliamCarlosWilliams called it a blueprint for ‘a new construction’, undertaken with an ‘irreducible minimum’ of means. The icy charm of those poems, 31 in all, one per page, along with their ...

On Lee Harwood

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood

8 April 2015
TheOrchid Boat 
by Lee Harwood.
Enitharmon, 48 pp., £8.99, July 2014, 978 1 907587 53 5
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... French poetry. The frequently shifting points of view – pans, zooms, fades, jump-cuts and the rest – are cinematic. The plainness of diction and spare style was acquired, at least in part, from WilliamCarlosWilliams, an early enthusiasm, with his habit of detailed observation and fascination with the ordinary or non-poetic: what Williams himself called the ‘imaginative qualities of the actual ...

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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... pines, Splash your great pines On our rocks, Hurl your green over us, Cover us with your pools of fir. The sea poem had come a long way from ‘Casabianca’. As a historian, Carr is ecumenical: William Brooke Smith, a student who died of tuberculosis in 1908, is given as much consideration as Pound’s other early friend WilliamCarlosWilliams; Marianne Moore, who matriculated at Bryn Mawr in the ...

Poet at the Automat

Eliot Weinberger: Charles Reznikoff

22 January 2015
... poems about watching the flies on his desk. In the late 1920s he met two younger poets, Louis Zukofsky and George Oppen. The three, all Jewish New Yorkers, shared an admiration for Ezra Pound and WilliamCarlosWilliams and a belief, along with Williams, that American modernism should be relocated from Paris and London to the US. Asked to edit an issue of Poetry in 1931, Zukofsky put them together ...
4 July 1985
Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered 
by William​ Pritchard.
Oxford, 186 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 19 503462 7
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... almost 39. He had been writing poetry, most of it unpublished, for some twenty years, and the difference in style was striking. Set beside the early work of Pound and Eliot (or of Wallace Stevens and WilliamCarlosWilliams, for that matter), Frost’s ‘simple’ lyrics might have seemed to be some sort of throwback – as if they belonged far down the back slope of the great Modernist watershed. But ...
26 January 1995
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters 
edited by David Gordon.
Norton, 313 pp., £23, June 1994, 0 393 03540 9
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‘Agenda’: An Anthology. The First Four Decades 
edited by William​ Cookson.
Carcanet, 418 pp., £25, May 1994, 1 85754 069 7
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... Laughlin could help. New Directions (or ‘Nude Erections’ as Pound preferred to call it) was born. By 1936, when its first anthology was published, the names of contributors included Pound, WilliamCarlosWilliams, E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. For 35 years Pound advised, instructed, cajoled, abused, while Laughlin for the most part acted on the good advice, ignored the bad ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters

22 September 2005
The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... a brief note to Elizabeth Bishop, a sympathetic message to his first wife, Jean Stafford, a weird word or two to a former lover, Gertrude Buckman, a sentence to George Santayana and two sentences to WilliamCarlosWilliams. Of these communications, those to Bishop, Buckman and Williams are certified as ‘written during an acute manic episode’, but the others are not. A few days later everything again ...

At the Nailya Alexander Gallery

August Kleinzahler: George Tice

11 October 2018
... New York photographers, or the street photographers who are his contemporaries. There is a stillness and classical sense of balance to his work that makes it seem to belong, often, to an earlier era. WilliamCarlosWilliams, inevitably, comes up in discussions of Tice, being, in his own work, very much rooted in New Jersey, particularly East Rutherford and Paterson. When Manhattan does make an appearance ...

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