Mar 11, 2010

Winters and His Last Students

Bob McLean sent me a note that Robert Archambeau has published a new book about Yvor Winters and some of his later students, Laureates and Heretics. Archambeau is the author of the "Samizdat" blog. The book studies the influence Winters had on several of the last graduate students he taught at Stanford University before he retired and died shortly thereafter in early 1968. Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, James McMichael, John Matthias, and John Peck are the students, all of whom became poets -- one nearly famous, one well known, the others marginal. Hass and Pinsky served as Poet Laureates of the United States. The others have received much less recognition. None has been "canonized" (a term to debate endlessly, of course) as the blurb says. Archambeau was a student of Matthais, if I recall correctly. The book's blurbs say it's about the "cultural politics" of literary and specifically poetic reputation in our times.

Frankly, I have never figured out why Archambeau is interested in Winters and seldom read Samizdat because of that. His blog doesn't seem to have any bend toward Wintersian classicism in any sense. Hass and Pinsky, as I have discussed quite a bit on this blog, have wandered far from classicism of any sort, and both have a tendency to misrepresent Winters's ideas to a greater or lesser degree. I have read the poetry of the other three and have found little of value in their writings. If anyone wishes to make a defense of their work, I am willing to listen and read again. I hope to get the book, but it sure is expensive.