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Philip Larkin and His Adjectives

His Plain Far-Reaching Singleness I have two of Philip Larkin’s poems by heart—“Sad Steps” and “Aubade”—though I admire many more, and it was while reciting the former poem silently to myself during a particularly boring meeting that I noticed a number of things for the first time, most of them related in one way or […]

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The Tell-Tale Line

Word Comix by Charlie Smith. Norton, 2009. The History of Forgetting by Lawrence Raab. Penguin, 2009. Blind Rain by Bruce Bond. Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Trust by Liz Waldner. Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009. As Reviewed By: Joan Houlihan Previews for a movie, or a trailer, usually tell me what I need to […]

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Philip Larkin and Happiness

On “Born Yesterday” For those familiar with Philip Larkin’s work, the title of this short essay will seem to offer a juxtaposition so improbable as to be laugh-out-loud funny-rather like that old joke staple, the tiny book titled German Humor, or the admittedly unlikely prospect of a panel at a New Formalist conference on “The […]

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An Agenda for Critics: Judgment

As Reviewed By: Jan Schreiber The task of the critic is judgment. I hope to unravel the complexities of judgment, as it applies to works of literature, and specifically to poetry. Those who imagine judgment to be a simple matter need only perform a small exercise to convince themselves otherwise. In the fourth act of […]

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Masters of the Airy Manner: Auden and Byron

W. H. Auden’s engagement with the poetry of Byron is perhaps not the most significant of his various literary relationships; probably not as important as that with W.B. Yeats or with T.S. Eliot; and we notice that in New Year’s Letter, when he lists the poetic mentors he sees as sitting in perpetual judicial session […]

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Aristocracies of One

On British and American Poetry What is the difference between British and American poetry—especially contemporary poetry—and why are they different? Because the two poetries are written in the same language, it seems to make more sense to ask this question of them than to ask, for example, what the differences between Italian and Spanish poetry […]

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The Passion of James K. Baxter: Part II

II. Unnamed ghosts trouble Baxter as much as those he addresses specifically; when local and personal history intermingle in the Jerusalem Sonnets, crises of faith tend to arise, as in the twenty-fifth sonnet: The brown river, te taniwha, flows on . . . —he can also be A brutal lover; they say he sucked under […]

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The Passion of James K. Baxter

On Frank Sargeson’s wall, up above the fireplace, there used to be (perhaps there still is) a wooden cross . . . . One day I found among cards and pictures on the shelf above the fireplace a photograph of the young Baxter in his alcoholic raincoat. I climbed up and pinned the photograph on […]

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Getting Out of the Flames

Original, generous, intimate, witty, brilliant, and occasionally batty, the Letters of Ted Hughes may be one of the most extraordinary collections of letters to be published in many years.

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Our Steps amid a Ruined Colonnade III: James Matthew Wilson on Grammar and Expression

III   O early ripe! To thy abundant store What could advancing age have added more? It might (what nature never gives the young) Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.                                         —John Dryden  We stood in a living room furnished with antiques and, on small tables winging the brocaded sofa, delicately fanned displays […]

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