Apr 4, 2008

The New Criterion Digs into Poetry Again

Quick Note:

The New Criterion has come out with its annual poetry issue, which has become a regular event, perhaps the only one of its kind in general publishing. The issue appears to offer a number of strong essays and some compelling poetry, particularly from Bill Coyle (winner of the journal’s 2008 poetry prize). One of the essays, by New Formalist David Yezzi (whom I have written about several times on this blog), is a review of that new anthology of the New Critics, Praising It New, which Swallow Press released a couple weeks ago. I discussed that book briefly a couple months ago, if you’d care to look up my preliminary comments. Yezzi offers a few sharp and intelligent paragraphs on Yvor Winters’s contribution to the anthology, the essay “Preliminary Problems,” which is a very important piece, one which I summarized in my post about the anthology. Yezzi takes very seriously Winters’s ideas about the control and proper adjustment of the emotions, and I hail Yezzi’s take and emphasis on this matter, as he tries, with acumen and sympathy, to cultivate Winters’s theories for a new generation.

But the issue includes a lot more. There is a piece on Walter de la Mare that looks beneficial. Winters did not have much to say about de la Mare’s work, so far as I know. Perhaps he needs a reconsideration from Wintersian classicists. There is, furthermore, a piece on Rudyard Kipling, a poet whose reputation was never high and has fallen far, as most everyone who cares knows. It might surprise you that Yvor Winters thought rather highly of Kipling’s poetry (though he did not judge it as great). I find a lot that is highly valuable in the Kipling’s poetry, and I look forward to studying Roger Kimball’s take on him.

There is more in the issue, but any consideration of the various pieces will have to wait until I get a chance to read the issue thoroughly. I will note that William Logan, a favorite critic of mine, is going to try to resurrect the reputation of a 19th-century American poet by the name of John Townsend Trowbridge (who is pictured here). You might want to check out a few pieces of Trowbridge’s at bartleby.com before reading Logan’s attempt at resurrection. I have found Trowbridge’s writing compelling at points, though judging from what I know so far I couldn’t yet put him near to the class of Jones Very (a Winters great) or William Cullen Bryant (a Winters near-great) or even Walter Landor (a strong poet whose work Janet Lewis much admired). I think Winters -– he never mentioned Trowbridge in any writing -- would have judged his poetry to be tainted by Romantic clich├ęs, which I also find a moderately damaging weakness in his artworks. Still, Trowbridge is not a poet to discard blithely. I want to read what Logan has to write.

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