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Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... Literature is to establish what, or rather who, he has modified: among poets, Whitman, Frost and Stevens; among critics and theorists, John Hollander, Harold Bloom, Stanley Cavell, George Kateb, Richard Rorty and Sacvan Bercovitch. Strong claims are made for the validity of the Emersonian position – it represents ‘what literature is most often trying to ...
Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered 
by William Pritchard.
Oxford, 186 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 19 503462 7
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... and the difference in style was striking. Set beside the early work of Pound and Eliot (or of Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, for that matter), Frost’s ‘simple’ lyrics might have seemed to be some sort of throwback – as if they belonged far down the back slope of the great Modernist watershed. But those same unassuming poems ...

The Devilish God

David Wheatley: T.S. Eliot, 1 November 2001

Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot 
by Denis Donoghue.
Yale, 326 pp., £17.95, January 2001, 0 300 08329 7
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Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature 
by Denis Donoghue.
Notre Dame, 178 pp., £21.50, May 2001, 0 268 02009 4
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... of Eliot’s Christianity, such as Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler, much prefer Yeats and Stevens. And as a glance at any anthology of 20th-century British poetry will show, the prewar voices most audible today belong to Auden and MacNeice. From the maudlin Tom and Viv to Peter Ackroyd’s unauthorised Life and Carole Seymour-Jones’s Painted ...

Extracts from Notebooks 1996-2006

Charles Simic, 10 May 2007

... used to read Emily Dickinson in the saddle, and the cops walking the beat carried a volume of Wallace Stevens in the pocket of their overcoats. The occupiers everywhere, I note, are outraged by the bad manners of the occupied that do nothing but complain about being mistreated. Sat up like a firecracker in bed, startled by the thought of my ...


Frank Kermode: Jerusalem, 16 September 1982

... in the mind’s eye the frontier town of the other. You can feel like this about later cities, as Wallace Stevens (who had never been there) felt about Rome: The threshold, Rome, and that more merciful Rome Beyond, the two alike in the make of the mind. But Rome is only, in this respect, an antitype of Jerusalem. No other city answers so closely to the ...


David Haglund: Mormons, 22 May 2003

... imagine an alternative view of the world. Booth asked me if I had read ‘Sunday Morning’ by Wallace Stevens. I hadn’t, but went straight to my room and found it in a cheap anthology bought not long before in a thrift store. ‘There is not any haunt of prophecy,’ Stevens writes, ‘nor cloudy palm/Remote on ...

Belfryful of Bells

Theo Tait: John Banville, 19 November 2015

The Blue Guitar 
by John Banville.
Viking, 250 pp., £14.99, September 2015, 978 0 241 00432 6
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... novelistic. In time-honoured fashion, Banville takes it from a canonical poem, nodding to Wallace Stevens (‘Things as they are/Are changed upon the blue guitar’). He dutifully sprinkles his text with other tags from Stevens: ‘things as they are’; ‘the thing itself’; ‘pale Ramon’. But though neat ...

From Papa in Heaven

Russell Davies, 3 September 1981

Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961 
edited by Carlos Baker.
Granada, 948 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 246 11576 9
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... but the facts are there. Nobody can teach you this. You know what made me laugh? The fight with Wallace Stevens. Baker’s Life of Me did not say much about this because Baker did not know but there was a letter I wrote to Sara Murphy that gives the dope: ‘Mr Stevens ... was just issuing from the door haveing just ...


James Wood, 5 August 1993

The New Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... reminds us of this. Besides, ‘the absence of the imagination had/ Itself to be imagined,’ as Wallace Stevens has it in ‘The Plain Sense of Things’. One must first be rich to be newly poor. Does any poet, really, have a healthy disrespect for language without also having a healthy respect? The introduction, which reads like a ...

In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell, 11 October 1990

On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... the corridors of power and the demi-monde of poets’ pubs. Like the Eliot he admires and the Wallace Stevens he deplores, you wouldn’t think he was a poet, to look at him: ‘When I am deposited at my desk I become, as nearly as may be, purely functional.’ But his office is in St James’s Square, and a seductive symbol can be seen from the ...

Floating Hair v. Blue Pencil

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1996

Revision and Romantic Authorship 
by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 354 pp., £40, March 1996, 0 19 812264 0
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... few poems reach print unrevised, though some are more spontaneous than others. It is curious that Wallace Stevens, who rarely suggests the poetry of flashing eye and floating hair, was in fact a very spontaneous writer and did very little revision, as if, for him, the primary and secondary processes were virtually one and the same. Wordsworth, on the ...

Back to Their Desks

Benjamin Moser: Nescio, 23 May 2013

Amsterdam Stories 
by Nescio, translated by Damion Searls.
NYRB, 161 pp., £7.99, May 2012, 978 1 59017 492 0
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... firm has a status something like that of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company that employed Wallace Stevens. Like Stevens, who remained at the company for 39 years and eventually rose to become its vice-president, Nescio was not a mere clerk: in 1926, he became co-director, and remained a director until ...

Language Questions

Barbara Strang, 17 July 1980

The Language-Makers 
by Roy Harris.
Duckworth, 194 pp., £15, April 1980, 0 7156 1430 4
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Beyond the Letter: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Ambiguity, Vagueness and Metaphor in Language 
by Israel Scheffler.
Routledge, 146 pp., £8.50, November 1979, 0 7100 0315 3
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Linguistic Perspectives on Literature 
edited by Marvin Ching, Michael Haley and Ronald Lunsford.
Routledge, 332 pp., £9.50, March 1980, 9780710003829
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... deviation and cohesion in cummings has also been published in two other versions. Keyser on Wallace Stevens illustrates dangers Widdowson warns of. The final sub-section deals with ‘Style as Tension between Meaning and Form’, including Verma on topicalisation. Handler on understanding poetic speech acts (good sense here), and Heller on the ...

Plague Fiction

Charles Nicholl, 23 July 1987

The Darker Proof 
by Adam Mars-Jones and Edmund White.
Faber, 250 pp., £3.95, July 1987, 0 571 15068 3
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... of adolescent sexuality, A Boy’s Own Story. There are a couple of references here to the poet Wallace Stevens, and White has something of Stevens’s mix of lyric simplicity and philosophical shimmer. The landscape of his stories is cosmopolitan – Paris, Venice, Vienna, Greece: the topography of the exiled ...


Julian Loose, 12 May 1994

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow 
by Peter Høeg, translated by F. David.
Harvill, 412 pp., £9.99, September 1993, 0 00 271334 9
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... descriptions are characteristic of Høeg’s half-Western, half-Inuit protagonist. To paraphrase Wallace Stevens, Smilla has a mind of winter: or, as it states in her Danish police report, ‘anybody needing to know anything about ice will benefit by consulting Smilla Jaspersen.’ In fact Smilla thinks more highly of snow and ice than of anything, even ...

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