Monday, February 23, 2009

David Orr on Greatness

Here is the essay by David Orr quoted in the negative review discussion I posted. The whole thing is well worth a read.

Orr's piece reminds me of another favourite poet of Ashbery's--and of mine--John Clare, a poet in many ways similar in sensibility to Elizabeth Bishop: a poet who values a close look at a small thing more than the windy effusions of ego favoured by his elder contemporary, Wordsworth the Great. (Not that Clare couldn't turn on the rhetoric when he wanted to.) The ambition is more humble, and for a long time Clare's work was neglected and ignored, or dismissed as quirky. But lately he seems to be one of the most talked-about of the Romantics. He's certainly my favourite. I think he's pretty great. Bishop too.

I think Orr's a bit too broadstroke about Lowell. Like Ashbery, Lowell wrote a great many disposable poems. But he did leave behind a fair clutch of amazingly good work, too. The little Selected published by Faber, edited by Michael Hoffmann, is probably a better place to read Lowell than in his doorstopper of a Collected.

UPDATE: A roundup of responses to Orr's article. But really, I'm just linking to this for the video.

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