Mar 13, 2007

Winters in the Times

Another mention of Yvor Winters has occurred in a major publication. This time it came in the New York Times, which published an essay on the controversy that has been roiling lately in literary magazines and on web sites around the country. It’s a sharp little essay on the criticism the Poetry Foundation received from the poetry editor of the New Yorker magazine, Dana Goodyear, who last month ran a long, scathing piece about the foundation’s use of that $200 million bequest that make such a huge splash in the news a couple years ago -- the only time in recent memory that poetry has made a huge splash for any reason in the general news, a splash which, of course, befits America, since the splash was actually created by the chunk of moola involved, not the poetry. This mild controversy, along with the New Yorker essay, are matters I have wanted to comment on, but other subjects have pushed them back in my queue. The NYT essay, by the engaging David Orr, the NYT Book Review’s poetry columnist, can be found at:

The mention of Winters, brief as it is, concerns Winters’s mostly disapproving and allegedly callous review of Hart Crane’s renowned “epic” series of poems “The Bridge,” a review which badly damaged their literary friendship. I have discussed Crane and Winters several times already in the opening months of this blog, on the occasion of the release of a new biography of Crane. I find it interesting that Orr appears to believe that readers of essays about poetry in the Times will understand at least this one aspect of Winters’s career. I wonder whether many do. But perhaps just enough people know him for one incident, that review of Hart Crane, that Orr can trust the reference is not yet obscure. I find that a good sign. At least Winters’s name is still known, however marginally. There is yet hope that he might be read by those who know the name and know of the relationship with Crane.

By the way, Orr published a review of one of the latest editions of Winters’s Selected Poems, the one edited by the late poet Thom Gunn that came out just a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to discuss that review, since it came from a leading figure in the world of American poetry. I will get to it in time, though it’s already a few years old.

No comments: