Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
A few months back, Garrick Davis, the editor of Contemporary Poetry Review, a site I've long read and admired for its erudite and incisive criticism, approached me about contributing to CPR. Having a very full dayjob and freelance dance card these days, I'm not writing much by way of reviews, so I asked him if he'd be open to co-publishing a piece I had written for Canadian Notes & Queries, on the recent anthology Modern Canadian Poets. Happily, Garrick agreed to this and the other day my review went up on the CPR site.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 6:48 AM
Monday, April 16, 2012
...There will always be something in any poem, some reverberation of the numinous, which is not patient of explication, otherwise it would not be a poem.
But I must insist that I am not endorsing a lapse into some deliquescent, quasi-mystical vacuity. That would be an insupportable cop-out. The poet may ask of his reader the willing suspension of disbelief; he does not, ever, ask for any diminution of the critical faculties. On the contrary, he would have the reader's critical faculties raised to the highest possible degree. No one can be more aware of the fact that, if everything means everything, then nothing means anything. Purgatory would be for me a perpetual mooning about in some gormless Dream-Analysis Workshop. The poet attempts to work within the most stringent of strictures; he abhors above all else the slovenly, the imprecise, in thought or in language.
--Richard Outram, "An Exercise in Exegesis," from Richard Outram: Essays on His Works
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 10:43 AM
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Once the genius of Shakespeare, or Coleridge and Wordsworth, or Whitman, or Eliot is generally agreed, the critics who backed the wrong horse are generally written out of literary history, or held up to ridicule. Yet those critics of whom time makes fools—John Wilson Croker on Endymion(“We almost doubt that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody”), Francis Jeffrey on The Excursion (“This will never do”), and many another—are often more worth reading than the critics of the day who got it right. We know what the latter critics will say—their taste is what our ears have been filled with; but, unless we read the other critics with attention, we can forget what an uncertain thing a poet’s reputation was at the start, forget what withering glances the poems themselves had to overcome, forget that, if the naysayers had had their way, literary history might have been different.
Posted by Zachariah Wells at 9:29 PM