Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence



Helen Vendler, Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats: Vendler bravely takes on Pope after John Shade (I had puzzled over "The Nature of Electricity", but Pope's appreciation of Montaigne clarified: "Electricity seems to play upon all he writes, dramas of changeable states and passions flash before the mind, vivacities and volatilities dance before the attention, all in the interest of life's unpredictability.") and Yeats after Cleanth Brooks (opposing "The Circus Animals' Desertion" to "Among School Children"), and succeeds with both; she also opens aspects of Whitman that I had not properly appreciated. But Dickinson remains elusive.

Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems (trans H.R.Hays): Beyond the ballads to the barricades and an early romantic sensibility, Brecht has his moments, such as his retelling of "The Shoe of Empedocles" (after a throwaway in Nat Hawthorne's "A Virtuoso's Collection"?); but this collection (including theatre songs) is weighted towards polemic which, however artful, suffers aesthetically.

Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales (trans John Glad): A part of the Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn left unexplored due to this effort, a hybrid of testament and (as Glad says, Chekhovian) short story. Shalamov (or Glad?) saves the best for the last sections, "The Virtuoso Shovelman" and "The Resurrection of the Larch", when the territory covered expands beyond the work camps.


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