Category Archives: notes on poems

Robert Pinsky, Impossible to Tell

Imagine a group of people taking turns making clever remarks, echoing and developing each others’ cues. To play the game well is to extend the discussion for another round in a pleasurable way. For instance, they might be middle-aged Jewish … Continue reading

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notes on Seamus Heaney’s Singing School

(en route to Tarrytown, NY) The son of a Catholic farmer in Ulster, with an education and an extraordinary gift for language, Seamus Heaney knew oppression and he knew art. Oppression came in many forms and layers–the Unionists and British … Continue reading

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Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Many people are contributing memories of “Famous Seamus.” I will not claim any great insight, and certainly no important interactions with the poet, although he, his wife, and I did wait on a freezing pitch-black Oxford winter morning for the … Continue reading

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Robinson Jeffers, Hurt Hawks

Robinson Jeffers’ son kept a wounded hawk as a pet for a few weeks in the 1920s. Jeffers wrote part 1 of this poem as a complete work before he killed the bird, adding part 2 later. It is famous … Continue reading

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a translation for spring

Dante sought his last refuge in Ravenna at the invitation of Count Guido Novello da Polenta (?-1320). According to Boccaccio, Guido was a person “well tutored in liberal studies” who honored “worthy men and especially those who exceeded others in … Continue reading

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Donald Justice, Men at Forty

I don’t read to see myself reflected on the page. I read primarily to learn how someone else thinks and to analyze and appreciate the formal characteristics of a carefully constructed work. But if I were going to cite a … Continue reading

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moral network mapping and literary criticism: a methodological proposal

A moral worldview is a set of beliefs or values connected by various kinds of relationships. For instance, one belief may imply another, or may subsume another, or may be in tension with another even though both are truths. If … Continue reading

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Donald Justice, About My Poems

Donald Justice, “About My Poems,” from Poetry magazine, March 1965: The poet appears as a critic of his own “early” (immature) verse that is “fashionably sad” and whose regular rhymes and meters “paralyze.” Nonetheless, he offers a rhymed, rhythmically regular … Continue reading

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Jack Gilbert, A Brief for the Defense

The poet Jack Gilbert died this week. One of his most famous poems is “A Brief for the Defense,” from which I quote a couple of excerpts: Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving … Continue reading

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Notes on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins to a young child Márgarét, áre you gríeving Over Goldengrove unleaving? Leáves, like the things of man, you With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? Ah! ás the heart grows older It … Continue reading

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