Notions of poetry and narration

Wallace Stevens, in his 1951 introduction to The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination, writes: “One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be the poetry at that time.”[1]

Gertrude Stein: “You know how much I have always meditated about narration, how to tell what one has to tell. …”[2]

Robert Lowell on Elizabeth Bishop’s North and South: “One is reminded of Kafka and certain abstract paintings. …” A Bishop poem “will usually start as a description or descriptive narrative, then either the poet or one of her characters or objects reflects. The tone of these reflections is pathetic, witty, fantastic, or shrewd. Frequently, it is all these things at once. Its purpose is to heighten and dramatize the description and, at the same time, to unify and universalize it … in her marvelous command of shifting speech tones …”[3]

Elizabeth Bishop: “Every good writer takes into account the social problems of his times … and in one way or another, all good poetry reflects those problems. …”[4]

Poetry, Elizabeth Bishop writes in a letter to May Swenson, is “a way of thinking with one’s feelings.”[5]

Don DeLillo: “For me, writing is a concentrated form of thinking.”[6]

Wallace Stevens notes in his Commonplace Book, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects, “Poetry is, of all others, the most daring form of research.”[7]

Eugenio Montale: “Always, at all times, poets have spoken to poets, entering into a real or imaginary correspondence with them.”[8]

Robert Lowell on William Carlos Williams: “I have emphasized Williams’s simplicity and nakedness and have no doubt been misleading. His idiom comes from many sources, from speech and reading, both of various kinds; the blend, which is his own invention, is generous and even exotic. Few poets can come near to his wide clarity and dashing rightness with words, his dignity and almost Alexandrian modulations of voice. His short lines often speed up and simplify hugely drawn out and ornate sentence structures. I once typed out his direct but densely observed poem, ‘The Semblables,’ in a single prose paragraph. Not a word or its placing had been changed, but the poem has changed into a piece of smothering, magnificent rhetoric, much more like Faulkner than the original Williams.”[9]

Octavio Paz, in “Luis Cernuda: The Edifying Word”: “The language of our time … is the language spoken in the great city, and all modern poetry, from Baudelaire on, has made that language the point of departure for a new lyricism.”[10]

Fredric Jameson, in his book Brecht and Method: “Brecht is modern first and foremost by way of his discontinuities and his deeper fragmentation. …” One who reads Brecht proceeds “into a certain unity, but only after having passed through it.” The “entire Brechtian corpus” can be seen “as an immense unity-in-dispersal, across a host of generic discourses and speech practices. …”[11]

Jameson: What gives Brecht’s language its “uniquely Brechtian flavour” is “some uniquely Brechtian mode of thinking. …”[12]

T. S. Eliot, in his 1921 essay “The Metaphysical Poets”: “Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.”[13]

William Carlos Williams, in his “Author’s Introduction” to his 1944 book of poems The Wedge: “The poet isn’t a fixed phenomenon, no more is his work. That might be a note on current affairs, a diagnosis, a plan for procedure, a retrospect — all in its own peculiarly enduring form. There need be nothing limited or frustrated about that. It may be a throw-off from the most violent and successful action or run parallel to it, a saga. It may be the picking out of an essential detail for memory, something to be set aside for further study, a sort of shorthand of emotional significances for later reference.”[14]

Poetry, Eugenio Montale says, “tends toward prose and at the same time refutes it.”[15]

George Seferis’s “tone of voice (I am going to speak of him as if he existed only in poetry)” — Peter Levi writes — “is at once riveting to the attention. There is something very serious and very complicated about it. It obeys the important rule that poetry now has to be at least as serious, and speak of realities as least as complicated, as prose is capable of doing. Every poet must find his way of expressing, in the forms of poetry available to him, in his language as it then is, whatever he can of life: his way of animating, or rather being animated by, all the possibilities he can of his native language.”[16]

T. S. Eliot, in his 1942 essay “The Music of Poetry”: “It may appear strange, that when I profess to be talking about the ‘music’ of poetry, I put such emphasis upon conversation. … So, while poetry attempts to convey something beyond what can be conveyed in prose rhythms, it remains, all the same, one person talking to another. …”[17]

Eliot: “The immediacy of poetry to conversation is not a matter on which we can lay down exact laws.”[18]

William Carlos Williams, in A Novelette: “Conversation as design … actual to the extent that it would be pure design. … Purely what? Conversation of which there is none in novels and the news.”[19]

Delmore Schwartz, in his review of Wallace Stevens’s The Man with the Blue Guitar in the Partisan Review in 1938: “From beginning to end … these poems are absorbed in ‘responses’ to various facts. They are absorbed to such an extent that the facts can scarcely get into the poems at all. We may compare Stevens to William Carlos Williams, whom he admires and who may be said to represent the other extreme, a poet whose whole effort is to get facts into his poem with the greatest exactitude and to keep everything else out.”[20]

Marianne Moore, in “Things Others Never Notice,” her 1934 review of William Carlos Williams’s Collected Poems 1921–1931: The “main force” of Wiliams’s poems is “thought from thought,” a result of “the pressure configured … illustrating that combination of energy and composure which is the expertness of the artist … the dashing shrewdness of the pattern as he develops it. …” Williams’s poems contain an “uncompromising conscientiousness … dissatisfied expanding energy, the emotion, the ergo of the medieval dialectician, the ‘therefore’ which is the distinguishing mark of the artist.”[21]

Marianne Moore, in “Conjuries that Endure,” her 1937 review of Wallace Stevens’s Owl’s Clover and Ideas of Order: Stevens’s “repercussive harmonics, set off by the small compass of the poem … suggest a linguist creating several languages within a single language.”[22]

Marianne Moore: Wallace Stevens’s poetry is “a voracity of contemplation.”[23]

Eugenio Montale’s poetry, Michael Hamburger writes, “almost always has a physical quality that engages and concerts all the senses.” For Montale, “the needs of each poem … determined its degree of explicitness.”[24]

Wallace Stevens, in “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words”: “The subject matter of poetry is not that ‘collection of solid, static objects extended in space’ but the life that is lived in the scene that it composes; and so reality is not that external scene but the life that is lived in it.”[25]

Gertrude Stein: “At present another composition is commencing, each generation has its composition, people do not change from one generation to another generation but the composition that surrounds them changes.”[26]

Wallace Stevens: “Still, without regard to any other consideration, if it meant to me what it meant to me, it might very well mean the same thing to anybody else. That a man’s work should remain indefinite is often intentional.”[27]

Louis Zukofsky, in A Test of Poetry: “Poetry convinces not by argument but by the form it creates to carry its content. … Condensation is more than half of composition. The rest is proper breathing space, ease, grace.”[28]

Zukofsky: “Elegance and … versification meant for declamation are not enough to compel permanent interest, as poetry. As poetry, only objectified emotion endures.”[29]

Thomas Merton, in his 1966 essay “Louis Zukofsky — The Paradise Ear”: Zukofsky plays “with the language he loves, which is the language he uses in talking to people. … His music is not different from talk. … ‘Talk,’ he says, ‘is a form of love / Let us talk.”[30]

Allen Ginsberg, in “Meditation and Poetics”: “Flaubert was the prose initiator of that narrowing down of perception and the concretization of it. … There’s a very interesting formulation of that attitude of mind in writing poetry by the late Charles Olson, in his essay ‘Projective Verse.” According to Olson, this is “the problem which any poet who departs from closed form is especially confronted by. And it evolves a whole series of new recognitions. From the moment he ventures into FIELD COMPOSITION” (which, Ginsberg adds parenthetically, “means the field of the mind”), “he can go by no track other than the one that the poem under hand declares for itself. Thus he has to behave, and be, instant by instant, aware of some several forces that are just now beginning to be examined. … The principle, the law which presides conspicuously over such composition and when obeyed is the reason why a projected poem can come into being. It is this: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT.”[31]

Ginsberg: “One perception leads to another. … So we have, as a ground of purification, letting go — the confidence to let your mind loose and observe your own perceptions.”[32]

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, in response to the question “What do you wish to show?”: “Emotion. Savy, the biologist, said something very apt: In the beginning was emotion, not in the beginning was the Word. When you tickle an amoeba, it retracts, it has emotion; it doesn’t speak but it has emotion. … But to us and us alone the Word has been given. The result is the politician, the writer, the prophet.”[33]

Céline: “if you take a stick and if you want it to appear to be straight in water, you bend it first, since refraction means that if I put my walking-stick in the water, it looks as if it is broken. You have to break it before putting it into the water. This is a real piece of work. It is the work of a stylist.”[34]

Don DeLillo: “But before everything, there’s language. Before history and politics, there’s language. And it’s language, the sheer pleasure of making it and bending it and seeing it form on the page and hearing it whistle in my head — this is the thing that makes my work go.”[35]

DeLillo: “I don’t think of language in a theoretical way. I approach it at street level. That is, I listen carefully to the way people speak. And I find that the closer a writer comes to portraying actual speech, the more stylized it seems on the page, so that the reader may well conclude that this is a formal experiment in dialogue instead of a simple transcription, which it actually is.”[36]

Gottfried Benn, in “Double Life: Future and Present”: “It is amazing … there is nothing more revealing than the word. It has always fascinated me to see experts in their fields, even profound philosophers, suddenly faced with the free word — the word that yields no tirades, no systems, no facts of external, historically buttressed observation, and no commentaries; that produces one thing only: form. How they operate there! Utterly at a loss. … Addendum: there really are now only two verbal transcendencies, the theorems of mathematics and the word as art.”[37]

Abram Tertz’s prologue to A Voice from the Chorus: “a book which goes backwards and forwards, advances and retreats, sometimes moves close to the reader and at other times runs away from him and flows like a river through new countries, so that as we sail along, the head starts to whirl from the sheer abundance of impressions, even though everything passes slowly enough before our eyes, allowing us to view it at leisure and then watch it till it drops out of sight; a book which has a number of themes but only one trunk, and grows like a tree, embracing space with the totality of its leaves and air, and — in the manner of the lungs which have the shape of an inverted tree — breathes by expanding almost infinitely, only to contract again down to a small point; a book whose meaning is as inscrutable as the soul in its innermost kernel.”[38]

Terry Eagleton, in an interview “Action in the Present,” in Polygraph: Versions of the Present: Modernism/Postmodernism: “There is a sense … that style in writing resists commodification, in a world where it is part of the effect of the commodity to desensualize. … I think we have to find a way to resist that form of commodification in the letter of the text, as Keats found a way of resisting commodification by sensuousness, by a kind of … overlaying of the language. …”[39]

Terry Eagleton: “Another strain of Modernism turns back to subjectivity itself. … The self may be fitful and fragmentary, but there is something we can rely on in the immediacy of its sensations. And though the essence of selfhood is now elusive, there are crtain rare moments in which it can be fleetingly recpatured.”[40]

Phillippe Sollers, in his novel Watteau in Venice, quoting Hénri Mattisee: “I give a fragment, and I lead the spectator in through the rhythm, I tempt him to pursue the movement of the fraction he sees, so as to give him the sense of whole. The point … lies in giving, through a very limited surface, the idea of immensity.”[41]

Roland Barthes, in “Event, Poem, Novel,” written in 1965 as a commentary to Phillippe Sollers’s Event: “It is in fact possible to read Event like a very beautiful poem, the indistinct celebration of language and of the woman beloved, the path of one toward the other, like Dante’s Vita Nova in another era: Event may be the infinite metaphor of ‘I love you,’ which is the single transformation found in all poetry.”[42]

Christa Wolf, in her 1976 conversation with Hans Kaufmann, “Subjective Authenticity”: “To my mind, it is much more useful to look at writing, not as an end product, but as a process which continuously runs alongside life, helping to shape and interpret it: writing can be seen as a way of being more intensely involved in the world, as the concentration and focusing of thought, word and deed. … This mode of writing is not ‘subjectivist,” Wolf continues, “but ‘interventionist.’ It does require subjectivity, and a subject who is prepared to undergo unrelenting exposure … to the material at hand, to accept the burden of the tensions that inexorably arise, and to be curious about the changes that both the material and the author undergo. The new reality you see is different from the one you saw before. Suddenly, everything is interconnected and fluid. Things formerly taken as ‘given’ start to dissolve, revealing the reified social relations they contain and no longer that hierarchically arranged social cosmos in which the human particle travels along the paths pre-ordained by sociology or ideology, or deviates from them. It becomes more and more difficult to say ‘I,’ and yet at the same time often imperative to do so.”[43]

In the The Truth of Poetry’s “Masks” chapter, Michael Hamburger writes that William Butler Yeats’s poetry “demands to be read with the kind of adjustments that we make for dramatic poetry; and the first person in a lyrical poem should never be identified, in any case, with the poet’s empirical self. Whether primarily confessional or primarily dramatic, the first person in lyrical poetry serves to convey a gesture, not to document identity or establish biographical facts. … Yeats’s multiple selves … convey a great many different gestures, of a great many different orders.”[44]

In Eugenio Montale’s poetry, Hamburger writes in The Truth of Poetry’s “A Period Loose at All Ends” chapter, “private and public experience are interwoven into the texture of his poems, exactly as they are interwoven in the texture of a human life … his poetic ‘I’ … functions … as a medium rather than as a subject (in either sense of the word). Montale, therefore, belongs to his poems, and his poems belong to any reader prepared to entrust himself to their exploratory courses.”[45]

A poet’s poems, Wallace Stevens notes in his Commonplace Book, are “speeches from the drama of the time in which he is living.”[46]

Adrienne Rich’s epigraph for Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems 2004–2006: “Poetry is not self-expression, the I is a dramatic I. — Michael S. Harper, quoting Sterling A. Brown.”[47]

Don DeLillo, in a 1977 interview “The American Strangeness,” with Gerald Howard: “The last half-century has been an enormously complex period — a strange spin-out experience, filled with danger and change. The novel is a very open form. It will accommodate large themes and whole landscapes of experience. The novel is here, the novel exists to give us a form that is fully equal to the sweeping realities of a given period. The novel expands, contracts, becomes essaylike, floats in pure consciousness — it gives the writer what he needs to produce a book that duplicates, a book that models the rich, dense, and complex weave of actual experience. The novel goads the writer into surpassing himself.”[48]

Wallace Stevens, in his 1955 speech “On Receiving the National Book Award for Poetry”: The poet “exercises a power over life, by expressing life, just as the novelist does; and I am by no means sure that the poet does not exercise this power at more levels than the novelist, with more colors, with as much perception and certainly with more music, not merely verbal music, but the rhythms and tones of human feeling.” The significance of poetry, Stevens adds, “is second to none. We can never have great poetry unless we believe that poetry serves great ends. We must recognize this from the beginning so that it will affect everything that we do. Our belief in the greatness of poetry is a vital part of its greatness, an implicit part of the belief of others in its greatness.”[49]

In his “Translator’s Preface” to Eugenio Montale’s book of poems The Occasions, Willliam Arrowsmith writes that Montale attempted “to enclose the refractory contraries — public and private, external and internal, historical and individual, transcendental and immanent — within the confines of the poem. The result was a poetry of a density and complexity … that knowingly sought to make itself a concentrate of experience at the very instant when experience becomes most difficult and most intimidates expression.”[50]

Montale: “For contemporary man everything is internal and everything is external. … We live with an altered sense of time and space.”[51]

Montale, Arrowsmith says, writes poetry “that can keep pace with, even contain, life itself.” His images are “constantly in the process of mutation. … An image of a metaphysical sort, for instance, is set out; this is immediately transformed into visual terms, which then become chromatic, only to be transformed again into another associated, but larger, cluster; image after image, each modulating into the other so as to give a quite Ovidian sense of a world in endless process of metamorphosis.”[52]

T. S. Eliot, in his 1953 essay “The Three Voices of Poetry”: “The first voice is the voice of the poet talking to himself — or to nobody. The second is the voice of the poet addressing an audience, whether large or small. The third is the voice of the poet when he attempts to create a dramatic character speaking in verse; when he is saying, not what he would say in his own person, but only what he can say within the limits of one imaginary character addressing another imaginary character. … I think that in every poem, from the private meditation to the epic or the drama, there is more than one voice to be heard.”[53]

Allen Ginsberg, in “Some Metamorphoses of Personal Prosody”: “In this mode perfection is basic,’ W. C. Williams reproved me correctly; simultaneously he responded with enthusiasm to short fragments of personal notation drawn from diaries & rearranged in lines emphasizing crude breath-stop syncopations. Later practice in this mode … trained my sensibility to the eccentric modulations of long-line composition displayed by Smart, Blake, Whitman, Jeffers, Rimbaud, Artaud & other precursors.”[54]

Allen Ginsberg: Bob Dylan’s principle of composition is “primarily spontaneous & improvised … connected with a voice improvising, with hesitancies aloud, a living musician’s ear … natural song for physical voice.”[55]

Dylan, in an interview with Robert Hilburn, “Dylan Now,” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, February 9, 1992: “There wasn’t anybody doing my thing. … It was just mine and no one else was going to cover that territory.”[56]

Dylan, in a 1985 interview, “Don’t Ask Me Nothin’ About Nothin’ I Might Just Tell You the Truth,” with Scott Cohen in Spin: “Sometimes the ‘you’ in my songs is me talking to me. Other times I can be talking to somebody else. If I’m talking to me in a song, I’m not going to drop everything and say, all right, now I’m talking to you. It’s up to you to figure out who’s who. A lot of time it’s ‘you’ talking to ‘you.’ The ‘I’ … also changes. It could be I, or … it could be another person who’s saying ‘I.”[57]

In his book To Be Loved, Berry Gordy Jr. writes: “The ‘feel’ was usually the first thing I’d go for. After locking in the drumbeat, I’d hum a line for each musician to start. Once we got going, we’d usually ad lib all over the place until we got the groove I wanted. Many of these guys came from a jazz background. I understood their instincts to turn things around to their liking, but I also knew what I wanted to hear. … So when they went too far, I’d stop them and stress, ‘We gotta get back to the funk — stay in that groove.” He would, Gordy said, make it “as plain as possible: I would extend my arms a certain distance apart, saying, ‘I want to stay between here and there. Do whatever you want but stay in this range — in the pocket.”[58]

Wallace Stevens in his Commonplace Book, quoting “The Composer and ‘Civilization’: Notes on the Later Work of Gabriel Fauré,” by W. H. Mellers, in the March 1938 issue of Scrutiny: “This scalic freedom of line and mastery of ellipses is the secret of all his harmonic complexity, the unique aristocratic tang … his writing is ‘technically’ strict, and his harmonic dialect rooted in the practice of his forbears, yet, by means of these elliptical transitions and flexible basses, he can produce chordal sequences which are absolutely original and inimitable, though containing no chord which is extraordinary in itself … Bach himself, sometimes but not often — in the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue for instance — achieved, by means of his exploitation of chromaticism, a comparable quince-like subtlety. You can sense it. …”[59]

In Language in Modern Literature: Innovation and Experiment, Jocob Korg writes: “Lévi-Strauss has shown that the sort of thinking that creates myths” induces “a state of mind capable of assimilating any and all ideas into an imaginative unity.” Myths “are intensively organized, as are great modern literary works, according to unacknowledged principles, but there is room within them for the principle of construction Lévi-Strauss calls bricolage, the improvisational activity that allows a limited play of chance.” The bricoleur “must modify his intentions to make do with whatever is available. Hence, he carries on a sort of dialogue with his resources … endowing the objects he chooses from his collection with a specific function,” transforming “the random into the determinate.” By giving “randomly-chosen materials specific places in the systems of relationships seen in his vision, the poet, like the dreamer, transforms choice into necessity.”[60]

Allen Ginsberg, in “Mind Writing Slogans”: “Ordinary mind includes eternal perceptions. … Notice what you notice. … Catch yourself thinking. … How do we talk to ourselves at night in the dark? … Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best … Subject is known by what she sees.”[61]

Eugenio Montale, in “Let’s Talk About Hermeticism,” speaks of “the nature of poetic-painterly-musical production … the tendency, among all the infinite variations … toward the object, toward art invested, incarnated in the means of expression, toward emotion which has become thing. Understand here,” Montale says, “that by thing we don’t mean the external metaphor, the description, but simply the resistance of the word within its syntactical nexus, the objective, finished … sense of form sui generis, to be judged case by case.”[62]

Wallace Stevens, in “The Irrational Element in Poetry”: “A poet writes poetry because he is a poet; and he is not a poet because he is a poet but because of his personal sensibility. What gives a man his personal sensibility I don’t know and it does not matter because no one knows.”[63]

Paz: “A poet is one who … writes because he cannot help it — and knows it. He is an accomplice of his fate — and its judge.”[64]

Don DeLillo: “Essentially, I write what I’m driven to write.”[65]

Wallace Stevens: “After all, the fury of poetry at any given time depends on a madman or two and, at the moment, all the madmen are politicians.”[66]

Stevens, writing in 1942[67]: “We are confronting … a set of events, not only beyond our power to tranquilize them in the mind, beyond our power to reduce them and metamorphose them, but events that stir the emotions to violence, that engage us in what is direct and immediate and real, and events that involve the concepts and sanctions that are the order of our lives and may involve our very lives; and these events are occurring persistently with increasing omen, in what may be called our presence.”[68]

Stevens, writing in 1942[69]: “This much ought to be said to make it a little clearer that in speaking of the pressure of reality, I am thinking of life in a state of violence, not physically violent, as yet, for us in America, but physically violent for millions of our friends and for still more millions of our enemies and spiritually violent, it may be said, for everyone alive. A possible poet must be a poet capable of resisting or evading the pressure of the reality of this last degree, with the knowledge that the degree of today may become a deadlier degree tomorrow.”[70]

William Carlos Williams, in The Embodiment of Knowledge: “But poetry continues. Since it happens always justly, never lying, never in front of life but around it when it occurs, unlike anything else in existence: proven, just exact.”[71]

Flannery O’Connor: In “good fiction and drama you need to go through the concrete situation to some experience of mystery.”[72]

Flannery O’Connor: “I do what I have to with what I can. You are always bounded by what you can make live.”[73]

T. S. Eliot, in his 1930 “Preface” to his translation of St. John Perse’s Anabase: Any “obscurity of the poem, on first readings, is due to the suppression of ‘links in the chain,’ of explanatory and connecting matter, and not to incoherence, or to the love of cryptogram. The justification of such abbreviation of method is that the sequence of images coincides and concentrates into one intense impression. … The reader has to allow the images to fall into his memory successively without questioning the reasonableness of each at the moment; so that, at the end, a total effect is produced. Such selection of a sequence of images and ideas has nothing chaotic about it. There is a logic of the imagination as well as a logic of concepts. People who do not appreciate poetry always find it difficult to distinguish between order and chaos in the arrangement of images; and even those who are capable of appreciating poetry cannot depend upon first impressions. I was not convinced of Mr. Perse’s imaginative order until I had read the poem five or six times. And if, as I suggest, such an arrangement of imagery reqires just as much ‘fundamental brainwork’ as the arrangement of an argument, it is to be expected that a reader of a poem should take at least as much trouble as a barrister reading an important decision on a complicated case.”[74]

Ezra Pound, in ABC of Reading: “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.’ … I begin with poetry because it is the most concentrated form of verbal expression.”[75]

Ezra Pound: The “three chief means” to “charge language with meaning to the utmost possible degree” are “throwing the object (fixed or moving) on to the visual imagination … inducing emotional correlations by the sound and rhythm of the speech” and “inducing both of the effects by stimulating the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver’s consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed.”[76]

Pound: “Rhythm is a form cut into TIME, as a design is determined SPACE. … In making a line of verse (and thence building the lines into passages) you have certain primal elements: That is to say, you have the various ‘articulate sounds’ of the language, of its alphabet, that is, and the various groups of letters in syllables. These syllables have differing weights and durations … A. original weights and durations … B. weights and durations that seem naturally imposed on them by the other syllable groups around them. Those are the medium wherewith the poet cuts his design in TIME.”[77]

Pound: “The answer is:
     LISTEN to the sound that it makes.”[78]

T. S. Eliot, in “The Music of Poetry”: “I have never been able to retain the names of feet and metres, or to pay the proper respect to the accepted rules of scansion … I wanted to know why one line was good and another bad; and this, scansion could not tell me.”[79]

Louis Zukofsky: “The principle of varying the stress of a regular meter and counting the same number of syllables to the line … transferred from ‘traditional’ to cadenced verse … in Spring and All: not that [Williams] made each line of a stanza or printed division carry absolutely the same number of syllables — … but there seems to have been a decided awareness of the printed, as well as the quantitative, looseness of vers libre. Obviously, what counts is quantity; print only emphasizes — yet, printing correctly, a poet … shows his salutary gift of quantity …”[80]

Allen Ginsberg, in “Mind Writing Slogans”: “‘Spots of Time’ — William Wordsworth … ‘Sight is where the eye hits.’ — Louis Zukofsky … ‘Presentation, not reference.’ — Ezra Pound … ‘An attempt to approximate classical qualitative meters … ’ — Ezra Pound … ‘Only Emotion Objectified endures.’ — Louis Zukofsky.”[81]

Wallace Stevens, in his Commonplace Book, quoting Andre Rousseaux: “La nostalgie de l’eternel est au fond de toutes les ouevres des philosophes, des romanciers et des poetes.” (The nostalgia for the eternal[,] is the basis of all the works of philosophers, novelists, and poets.)[82]

Jonathan Galassi, in his essay “Reading Montale”: “If Montale’s poetry can be construed as a novel, and there are many indications that he himself regarded it in these terms.”[83]

Jonathan Galassi: “As Gianfranco Contini has observed, Montale’s work is written at the point of ‘veritable cultural saturation’; it is so heavily layered with allusion and quotation, particularly self-quotation, that at times it seems to approximate the echo chamber of Walter Benjamin’s ideal work, the collage of borrowings.”[84]

Galassi: “Likewise with Montale’s images, which he once said exist within the poems like knots in wood, integral to their meaning, or, rather, constitutive of it. It is remarkable how consistent his figurative vocabulary is, how the same images occur in poem after poem, accruing significance and value through use and across time.”[85]

Eugenio Montale, in “Intentions (Imaginary Interview)”: “It doesn’t depend on me: an artist is a driven man, he doesn’t have freedom of choice. In this field, more than others, there’s an effective determinism.”[86]

Montale: “Since from birth I have felt a total disharmony with the reality that surrounded me, the material of my inspiration could only be that disharmony. … I believe it’s a question of an inadaptibility, a psychological and moral maladjustment which is part and parcel of every basically introspective personality, i.e., of every poetic personality.”[87]

Wallace Stevens, in his Commonplace Book: “The aim, in fact, of an artist should be, not to create as beautifully as possible, but to tell as much of the truth as is compatible with creating beautifully. … It needs more imagination to see and interpret the world as it is.”[88]

Stevens in his Commonplace Book, quoting from an essay by Graham Bell in the June 12, 1937 issue of The New Statesman and Nation: “In a Cézanne there can be no question of juggling with the elements of design, no possibility of glossing over difficulties, no equivocation. With Cézanne integrity was the thing, and integrity never allowed him to become fixed at any one point in his development, but sent him onward toward new discoveries of technique, new realisations of the motive.” Stevens then writes: “I note the above both for itself and because it adds to subject and manner the thing that is incessantly overlooked: the artist, the presence of the determining personality. Without that reality no amount of other things matters much.”[89]

Stevens, in his Commonplace Book: “Pasternak declared that the artist must expect no other aid than from his own imagination, that art should represent the furthest reach and not the mean of an epoch, and that the natural growth and strength of art can relate it to its period. … the first essential condition for the creation of works of art is that the artist must be allowed freely to follow his own imagination — whether it may lead him into the front-line or, more often, into isolation. Art is individual and the artist, therefore, is an individualist and no demands can be made on him from the outside.”[90]

Martin Amis, in “Saul Bellow in Chicago”: “Bellow … believes that the time has come for serious … writers to be serious, without losing lyricism. … Why not address ‘the mysterious circumstance of being’, and say what it’s like to be alive at this time, on this planet?”[91]

Don DeLillo: “I think my work has always been informed by mystery; the final answer, if there is one at all, is outside the book. My books are openended. I would say that mystery … is something that weaves in and out of my work. I can’t tell you where it came from or what it leads to. Possibly it is the natural product of a Catholic upbringing.”[92]

Don DeLillo: “I think there is a sense of last things in my work that probably comes from a Catholic childhood. For a Catholic, nothing is too important to discuss or think about, because he’s raised with the idea that he will die any minute now and that if he doesn’t live his life in a certain way this death is simply an introduction to an eternity of pain. This removes a hesitation that a writer might otherwise feel when he’s approaching important subjects, eternal subjects. I think for a Catholic these things are part of ordinary life.”[93]

DeLillo, in response to a question by Adam Begley about the application of “poetic beauty” to “scenes of dereliction” in his novel Great Jones Street: “I think that is how urban people react to the deteriorating situation around them — I think we need to invent beauty, search out some restoring force. A writer may describe the ugliness and pain in graphic terms but he can also try to find a dignity and significance in ruined parts of the city, and the people he sees there.”[94]

DeLillo: “The writer has lost a great deal of his influence, and he is situated now, if anywhere, on the margins of the culture. But isn’t this where he belongs? How could it be any other way? And in my personal view this is a perfect place to observe what’s happening at the dead center of things. I particularly have always had a kind of endgame sensibility when it comes to writing serious fiction. Before I ever published a novel, this is how I felt about it — that I was writing for a small audience that could disappear at any minute, and not only was this not a problem, it was kind of a solution. It justified what I wrote and it narrowed expectations in a healthy way. I am not particularly distressed by the state of fiction or the role of the writer. The more marginal, perhaps ultimately the more trenchant and observant and finally necessary he’ll become.”[95]

Terry Eagleton on the poetry of Bertolt Brecht: “The problem of word and thing is particularly pressing for a political poet. For political poetry must seek to represent a forceful truth in language at the same time as it must prise language free from the ideologies in which it is imprisoned, suggest its multiple possibilities and so reinstate an essentially ironic relation between writing and reality.”[96]

Eagleton on Brecht: “The point … was to float language free of the object so that it became, not its mirror, but its critique. Language was not ‘reflection’ or ‘symbolic embodiment’ but historical intervention, shattering established representations in the name of alternative ways of constructing the world. The paradigm of such reconstructions for Brecht was, of course, socialism; but there is a sense in which it was also writing. For any piece of writing constructs reality in partial, questionable, exclusive ways. … The most revolutionary gesture for Brecht was … for a poem to demonstrate its own bias, backtrack skeptically on its own assumptions, interrogate its own perceptions in the very act of communicating them. … The political force of Brecht’s poetry … is not in the first place a question of ‘passionate commitment,’ moral indignation or satiric denunciation, though few modern poets have equalled him in these capacities. It is a matter of dramatising, in the very forms of fiction, that the social reality under which we live is merely one possibility — a particular ‘fictional’ construction which may be transformed. This is indeed a question of form rather than (in the first place) of content, and it is for this reason that formalism must be opposed: it trivialises an issue of supreme importance.”[97]

Octavio Paz, in “William Carlos Williams: The Saxifrage Flower”: “Williams from the outset sought a poetic Americanism. In effect, as he explains in the beautiful essays of In the American Grain (1925), America is not a given reality but something we all make together with our hands, our eyes, our brains, and our lips. The American reality is material, mental, visual, and above all, verbal: whether he speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, or French, American man speaks a language different from the European original. More than just a reality we discover or make, America is a reality we speak.”[98]

Octavio Paz: “The greatness of a poet is not measured by the extent but by the intensity and perfection of his works.”[99]

Paz: “The poem is a verbal object, and though it is made of signs (words), its ultimate reality unfolds beyond those signs: it is the presentation of a form. …”[100]

Paz, in “Luis Buñuel: Three Perspectives”: “Los Olvidados showed the way not to overcome superrealism — can anything be overcome in art and literature? — but to unravel it; I mean that Buñuel had found an exit from the superrealist aesthetic by inserting, in the traditional form of the narrative, the irrational images which spring up out of the dark side of man. (In those years I set myself a similar task in the more restricted domain of lyric poetry.)”[101]

Edmund White, in his “Introduction” to Jean Genet’s Prisoner of Love: “Like the Céline of Castle to Castle or Rigadoon, Genet backs into his subjects, starts talking around something long before he identifies it. Like Céline, Genet appears to be casual and conversational, but through recurrence he heightens each subject until it turns mythical.”[102]

Edmund White on Genet: “Genet always constructed his fiction like cinematic montage, alternating one story with one or two others. In Prisoner of Love the intercutting becomes rapid, constant, vertiginous — a formal device for showing the correspondence between elements where no connection had been previously suspected. In two pages Genet can make unexpected links between Mozart’s scatology, a desire for a house, the prudish way the early Church Fathers referred to the Virgin’s breast, the invisible cell that glided about around Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, the words of a Sufi poet, and so on. In Genet’s novels the poet’s urge to uncover correspondences is encoded in brilliant metaphors. In Prisoner of Love metaphors have been replaced by a different method — radical juxtaposition without copula, that is, the tight sequencing of different subjects without transition. This method emphasizes the sovereignty of the observer — makes him into a god.”[103]

Thomas Merton, in his 1967 essay “Day of a Stranger,” writes: “There is a mental ecology, too, in living balance of spirits in this corner of the woods. There is room here for many … songs. … Vallejo for instance. Or Rilke, or Rene Char, Montale, Zukofsky, Ungaretti, Edwin Muir, Quasimodo or some Greeks. Or the dry, disconcerting voice of Nicanor Parra … Here is the reassuring companionship of many silent Tzu’s and Fu’s; King Tzu, Lao Tzu, Meng Tzu, Tu Fu. And Nui Neng. And Chao-Chu. And the drawings of Sengai. And a big graceful scroll from Suzuki. Here also is a Syrian hermit called Philoxenus. And an Algerian cenobite called Camus. Here is heard the clanging prose of Tertullian, with the dry catarrh of Sartre. Here the voluble dissonances of Auden, with the golden sounds of John of Salisbury. Here is the deep vegetation of that more ancient forest in which the angry … Isaias and Jeremias … sing. Here … are … voices from Angela of Foligno to Flannery O’Connor, Theresa of Avila, Juliana of Norwich. … It is good to choose the voices that will be heard in these woods, but they also choose themselves, and send themselves to be present in this silence. In any case there is no lack of voices.”[104]

Thomas Metron: Rafael Alberti’s “angelic poems … are prophetic ‘burdens’ like the burdens of Isaiah and the laments of Ezekiel over Babylon and Tyre, and as such they can be attended to with a certain pity and fear appropriate to the awareness of tragedy and accursedness — an awareness to which our own poets have seldom been attuned though a few of our prose writers — Faulkner above all — certainly have.”[105]

Adrienne Rich, in Poetry & Commitment: An Essay: “There is no universal Poetry anyway, only poetries and poetics, and the streaming, intertwining histories to which they belong. There is room, indeed necessity, for both Neruda and César Vallejo, for Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfonsina Storni, for Audre Lorde and Aimé Césaire, for both Ezra Pound and Nelly Sachs. Poetries are no more pure and simple than human histories are pure and simple.”[106]

Adrienne Rich: “If to ‘aestheticize’ is to glide across brutality and cruelty, treat them merely as dramatic occasions for the artist rather than structures of power to be revealed and dismantled — much hangs on the words ‘merely’ and ‘rather than.’ Opportunism isn’t the same as committed attention. But we can also define the ‘aesthetic’ not as a privileged and sequestered rendering of human suffering, but as news of an awareness, a resistance, that totalizing systems want to quell, art reaching into us for what’s still passionate, still unintimidated, still unquenched.”[107]

Osip Mandelstam, in “Conversation About Dante”: “It is absolutely false to perceive Dante’s poem as some extended single-line narrative or even as having but a single voice. … There is not just one form in Dante, but a multitude of forms. … A scientific description of Dante’s Commedia, taken as a flow, as a current, would inevitably assume the look of a treatise on metamorphoses, and would aspire to penetrate the multitudinous states of poetic matter. …”[108]

Osip Mandelstam: “Love of the city, passion for the city, hatred for the city — these serve as the materials of the Inferno.”[109]

Mandelstam: Dante’s city “is scattered everywhere — he is surrounded by it.”[110]

Mandelstam: The “journey with conversations,’ otherwise known as the Divina Commedia.”[111]

Frank O’Hara, in “[Statement for The New American Poetry]”: “It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time.”[112]

Frank O’Hara, in “About Zhivago and His Poems”: For Pasternak, “the artist is the last repository of individual conscience, and in his terms conscience is individual perception of life. This is not at all a counterrevolutionary attitude based on an intellectual-aristocratic system. It has not to do with a predilection for ‘culture.’ The lesson comes from life. … And if love lives at all in the cheap tempestuousness of our time, I think it can only be in the unrelenting honesty with which we face animate nature and inanimate things and the cruelty of our kind, and perceive and articulate and … choose love above all else.”[113]

John Ashbery, in “A Conversation with Kenneth Koch”: “When statements occur in poetry they are merely a part of the combined refractions of everything else.”[114]

John Ashbery on John Wheelright: “Still, almost any random page from Wheelright makes one want to persevere. A suggestion of the difficulties and delights ahead can be found in the remarkable ars poetica (of a sort) called ‘Verse + Radio = Poetry,’ published by Rosenfeld and S. Foster Damon in Southern Review (Spring 1972): ‘The music of poetry is more than sound — its music consists in the presentation of ideas as themes repeated, contradicted, and developed like musical ideas. … Ideological music is closely related to disassociation of associated ideas and the association of the disassociated. This philosophical process must constantly go on, in answer to constantly changing society, for ages and generations and for individuals from childhood to old age and from mood to mood.’”[115]

Gertrude Stein, in Picasso: “People really do not change from one generation to another, as far back as we know history people are about the same as they were, they have had the same needs, the same desires, the same virtues and the same qualities, the same defects, indeed nothing changes from one generation to another except the things seen and the things seen make that generation, that is to say nothing changes in people from one generation to another except the way of seeing and being seen, the streets change, the way of being driven in the streets change, the buildings change, the comforts in the houses change, but the people from one generation to another do not change. The creator in the arts is like all the rest of the people living, he is sensitive to the changes in the way of living and his art is inevitably influenced by the way each generation is living, the way each generation is being educated and the way they move about, all this creates the composition of that generation.”[116]

Gertrude Stein: “A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation.”[117]

Jean-François Lyotard, in the The Confession of Augustine: “A second person indeed hangs over, surveys the Confessions, magnetizes them, filters through them. A you, nameless patronym of the catholic. … You is the addressee of the avowal that I write.”[118]

George Seferis, in “Cavafy and Eliot — A Comparison”: “Cavafy’s world exists in the … borderlands of those places, individuals and epochs which he so painstakingly identifies. It is an area marked by blending, amalgamation, transition, alteration, exceptions. …”[119]

In the final chapter, “Defying Conclusions: Opening Up Modernism,” in his book Modernism in Poetry: Motivations, Structures and Limits, Rainer Emig writes: “In order to fulfill itself, modernist poetry must keep a precarious balance. It must pursue modernity’s tendency … of transforming reality into an aesthetic construct. Yet it must not give in to a complete aestheticisation of reality, to the idea of its own omnipotence in the allure of its simulated reality. … Self-reflection is the key term in modernist poetry’s delicate balancing act. It must of necessity constitute itself and even strive to achieve an impossible unity. This is, as Adorno reminds us, the inheritance of myth as an attempt to master the chaos of nature.”[120]

In Line Break: Poetry as Social Practice, in his final chapter, “Line Break,” James Scully writes: “I cannot rehearse the historical conditioning of free verse, nor concoct a taxonomy of line breaks. Suffice it to say that those line breaks may be expressive. May reflect, refract or shift the angle and distance between the work and the reader. Or telescope meaning. Or render ideologically difficult meaning … through the medium of an accessible or unresisted meaning. Line breaks define energy … redistribute rhythm, shift the weight of a word, reset our relationship to it. They do this and more. But what’s more significant is that the line break is the most volatile, productive punctuation in free verse. It is punctuation that has not been regulated or domesticated. It has not been theorized.”[121]

Hart Crane’s poetry, Michael Hamburger writes in The Truth of Poetry’s “A Period Loose at All Ends” chapter, is “so subtly allusive that one is scarcely aware of the transitions.”[122]

“Apollinaire was indeed presenting not only his own complex person,” Hamburger writes in The Truth of Poetry’s “Internationalism and War” chapter, “but a great deal of the modern world at a turning-point which he understood as well as any poet writing at the time, with a prescience especially remarkable. …”[123]

Fernando Pessoa, quoted by Michael Hamburger in The Truth of Poetry’s “Multiple Personalities” chapter: “The first stage of lyrical poetry is that in which the poet concentrates on his feelings and expresses them. If, however, he is a creature with mutable and multiple feelings, he will express a number of personalities, as it were, held together only by temperament and style. One further step, and we are confronted with a poet who is a creature with multiple and fictitious feelings, more imaginative than emotional, experiencing every state of mind more intellectually than emotionally. This poet will express himself in a variety of persons no longer unified by temperament and style, but by style alone; for temperament has been replaced by imagination, and emotion by intellect. One farther step on the way to depersonalization or, better, imagination, and we are confronted with a poet who becomes so much at home in each of his different states of mind that he gives up his personality completely, to the point where, by experiencing each state mind analytically, he makes it yield to the expression of a different personality; in that way even style becomes manifold. One last step, and we find the poet who is several different poets at once, a dramatic poet who writes his lyrical poems. Each group of imperceptibly related states of mind thus becomes a personality with a style of its own and feelings that may differ from the poet’s own typical emotional experiences, or may even be diametrically opposed to them. And in this way lyrical poetry draws close to dramatic poetry without assuming dramatic form.”[124]



1.  Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (1951), vii.

2.  John Malcolm Brinnin, The Third Rose: Gertrude Stein and Her World (Grove Press 1961), 391.

3.  Robert Lowell, “Elizabeth Bishop’s North and South,” in Collected Prose, ed. Robert Giroux (1987), 76, 76–77.

4.  Elizabeth Bishop, Edgar Allan Poe and the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments, ed. Alice Quinn (2006), 322, internal quotation marks omitted.

5.  Alice Quinn, introduction to Bishop, Edgar Allan Poe and the Juke-Box, ix, xii, internal quotation marks omitted.

6.  Vince Passaro, “Dangerous Don DeLillo,” in Conversations with Don DeLillo, ed. Thomas DePietro (2005), 75, 80.

7.  Stevens, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects: Wallace Stevens’s Commonplace Book: A Facsimile and Transcription, ed. Milton J. Bates (1989), 89, quoting Betty Miller, Francis Ponge and the Creative Method (Horizon, September 1947), 216.

8.  Eugenio Montale, “Dante, Yesterday and Today,” in The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays, ed. and trans. Jonathan Galassi (1982), 134, 139.

9.  Lowell, “William Carlos Williams,” in Collected Prose, ed. Robert Giroux (1987), 28, 41.

10.  Octavio Paz, “Luis Cernuda: The Edifying Word” (1986), in On Poets and Others, trans. Michael Schmidt (Arcade Books 1990), 190, 202.

11.  Fredric Jameson, Brecht and Method (1998), 6.

12.  Ibid., 21.

13.  T. S. Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921), quoted in Val Warner, introduction to The Centenary Corbière: Poems and Prose of Tristan Corbière, trans. Val Warner (1975), i, iii.

14.  William Carlos Williams, “Author’s Introduction,” The Wedge (1944), in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (1954), 255, 256.

15.  Interview by Maria Corti with Eugenio Montale (March 1971), quoted in Jonathan Galassi, introduction to Otherwise: Last and First Poems of Eugenio Montale (1981), trans. Jonathan Galassi (Random House 1984), ix, x.

16.  Peter Levi, “Seferis’s Tone of Voice,” in Modern Greek Writers, ed. Edmund Keeley and Peter Bien (1972), 171, 173.

17.  Eliot, “The Music of Poetry,” in On Poetry and Poets (1957), 26, 29, 31.

18.  Ibid., 31.

19.  Williams, A Novelette, in Imaginations, ed. Webster Schott (1970), 272, 286–87.

20.  Delmore Schwartz, “Stevens’s ‘special kind of museum’” (1938, reviewing Wallace Stevens, The Man with the Blue Guitar [1937]), in Wallace Stevens: The Critical Heritage, ed. Charles Doyle (1985), 181, 185.

21.  Marianne Moore, “Things Others Never Notice” (1934, reviewing William Carlos Williams: Collected Poems 1921–1931 [1934]), in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, ed. Patricia C. Willis (Penguin Books 1987), 325, 325–27.

22.  Moore, “Conjuries that Endure” (1937, reviewing Wallace Stevens, Owl’s Clover [1936] and Ideas of Order [1936]), in The Complete Prose, 347, 347.

23.  Moore, “Ideas of Order” (1936, reviewing Wallace Stevens, Ideas of Order [1936]), in The Complete Prose, 329.

24.  Michael Hamburger, “A Period Loose at All Ends,” in The Truth of Poetry: Tensions in Modern Poetry from Baudelaire to the 1960s (1969), 180, 215, 218.

25.  Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” in The Necessary Angel, 1, 25.

26.  Gertrude Stein, Picasso: The Complete Writings, ed. Edward Burns (Beacon Press 1985), 38.

27.  Letter from Wallace Stevens to Robert Pack, December 18, 1954, in Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens (University of California Press 1996), 863.

28.  Louis Zukofsky, A Test of Poetry (1948, C. Z. Publications 1980), 52, 81.

29.  Ibid., 87.

30.  Thomas Merton, “Louis Zukofsy — The Paradise Ear” (1966), in The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, ed. Brother Patrick Hart (1981), 128, 129.

31.  Allen Ginsberg, “Meditation and Poetics,” in Spiritual Quests: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing, ed. William Zinsser (1988), 143, 159–60.

32.  Ibid., 143, 161–62.

33.  Interview by Claude Sarraute with Louis-Ferdinand Céline, June 1, 1960, in Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Castle to Castle, trans. Ralph Manheim (1968), v, vi–vii. 

34.  Ian Noble, Language and Narration in Céline’s Writings: The Challenge of Disorder (1987), 19, quoting Céline.

35.  Adam Begley, “The Art of Fiction CXXXV: Don DeLillo,” in Conversations with Don DeLillo, 86, 107.

36.  Anthony DeCurtis, “‘An Outsider in This Society’: An Interview with Don DeLillo,” in Conversations with Don DeLillo, 52, 69.

37.  Gottfried Benn, “Excerpt from Double Life: Future and Present,” in Primal Vision: Selected Writings of Gottfried Benn, ed. E. B. Ashton (1960), 175, 177.  

38.  Abram Tertz, A Voice from the Chorus (1976), trans. Kyril Fitzlyon and Max Hayward (Quartet Books 1994), 4.  

39.  “Action in the Present: An Interview with Terry Eagleton,” Polygraph 2/3 (1989), 35, 36.

40.  Terry Eagleton, “Unhoused” (book review), London Review of Books, May 22, 2008, 19.

41.  Philippe Sollers, Watteau in Venice, trans. Alberto Manguel (1994), 217–18.

42.  Roland Barthes, “Event, Poem, Novel,” in Philippe Sollers, Event (1965), trans. Bruce Benderson and Ursule Molinaro (Red Dust 1986), 85, 87n1.

43.  Christa Wolf, “Subjective Authenticity: A Conversation with Hans Kaufmann,” in The Fourth Dimension: Interviews with Christa Wolf, trans. Hilary Pilkington (Verso 1988), 17, 21–22, emphasis added. 

44.  Hamburger, “Masks,” in The Truth of Poetry, 61, 79–80.

45.  Hamburger, “A Period Loose at All Ends,” in The Truth of Poetry, 180, 219.

46.  Stevens, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects, 57, quoting Stephen Spender, “Poetry and Expressionism,” New Statesman & Nation (London), March 12, 1938, 407, 408.

47.  Adrienne Rich, Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems 2004–2006 (2007), epigraph.

48.  Gerald Howard, “The American Strangeness: An Interview with Don DeLillo,” in Conversations with Don DeLillo, 119, 124.

49.  Stevens, “On Receiving the National Book Award for Poetry” (1955), in Opus Posthumous (1957), ed. Milton J. Bates (1987), 288, 288–89.

50.  William Arrowsmith, translator’s preface to Eugenio Montale, The Occasions (1957), trans. Arrowsmith (W. W. Norton 1987), xiii, xiii–xiv.

51.  Ibid., xiii, xvi.

52.  Ibid., xiii, xxi; Arrowsmith, translator’s preface to Eugenio Montale, The Storm and Other Things (1957), trans. Arrowsmith (W. W. Norton 1985), 13, 15.

53.  Eliot, “The Three Voices of Poetry” (Eleventh Annual Lecture of the National Book League, 1953), in On Poetry and Poets (1957), 89, 100.

54.  Ginsberg, “Some Metamorphoses of Personal Prosody” (1966), in Naked Poetry: Recent American Poetry in Open Forms, ed. Stephen Berg and Robert Mezey (1969), 221, 221.

55.  Ibid.

56.  Robert Hilburn, “Dylan Now” (interview), Los Angeles Times Magazine, February 9, 1992, 16.

57.  Scott Cohen, “Don’t Ask Me Nothin’ About Nothin’ I Might Just Tell You The Truth: Bob Dylan Revisited” (interview), Spin, December 1985, 26, 39.

58.  Berry Gordy, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown (1994), 47.

59.  Stevens, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects, 59, quoting W. H. Mellers, “The Composer and ‘Civilization’: Notes on the Later Work of Gabriel Fauré,” Scrutiny, March 1938, 395.

60.  Jacob Korg, Language in Modern Literature: Innovation and Experiment (1979), 142.

61.  Ginsberg, “Mind Writing Slogans,” Sulfur, Spring 2003, 125, 125–27.

62.  Montale, “Let’s Talk About Hermeticism,” in The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays, 291, 293.

63.  Stevens, “The Irrational Element in Poetry,” in Opus Posthumous, 224, 224.

64.  Paz, “Luis Cernuda: The Edifying Word,” 190, 193.

65.  Maria Moss, “‘Writing as a Deeper Form of Concentration’: An Interview with Don DeLillo,” in Conversations with Don DeLillo, 155, 164.

66.  Stevens, “Responses to Twentieth Century Verse Questionnaire: Enquiry,” in Opus Posthumous, 307, 308.

67.  Stevens, The Necessary Angel, ix.

68.  Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” 1, 22.

69.  Stevens, The Necessary Angel, ix.

70.  Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” 1, 26–27.

71.  Williams, [“Then comes poetry”] (1928), in The Embodiment of Knowledge, ed. Ron Loewinsohn (1974), 32.

72.  Letter from Flannery O’Connor to Janet McKane, May 17, 1963, in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, ed. Sally Fitzgerald (1979), 519, 520.

73.  Ibid.

74.  Eliot, preface to Anabase, in St.-John Perse: Collected Poems, trans. W. H. Auden et al. (1971), 675–76.

75.  Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (1934, Faber and Faber 1961), 36.

76.  Ibid., 63.

77.  Ibid., 198–99.

78.  Ibid., 201.

79.  Eliot, “The Music of Poetry,” 26, 27.

80.  Zukofsky, “A”-17, in “A” (1978, Johns Hopkins University Press 1993), 377, 378.

81.  Ginsberg, “Mind Writing Slogans,” 125, 125–27.

82.  Stevens, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects, 89, quoting André Rousseaux, “Review,” Le Figaro, December 28, 1946, 2 (reviewing Simone de Beauvoir, Tous les hommes sont mortels [1946]).

83.  Galassi, “Reading Montale,” in Collected Poems: 1920–1954, ed. and trans. Galassi (1998), 420.

84.  Ibid., 417.

85.  Ibid., 421.

86.  Montale, “Intentions (Imaginary Interview),” in The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays, 295, 304.

87.  “Eugenio Montale: An Interview,” in The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays, 310, 311.

88.  Stevens, Sur Plusieurs Beaux Sujects, 51, 53, quoting G. W. Stonier, “The Young Hopkins,” New Statesman & Nation (London), January 23, 1937, 124, 126 (reviewing The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. Humphrey House [1937]).

89.  Ibid., 53, quoting Graham Bell, “No Equivocation: Cézanne at the Lefèvre,” New Statesman & Nation (London), June 12, 1937, 963.

90.  Ibid., 75.

91.  Martin Amis, “Saul Bellow in Chicago,” in The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (Penguin Books 1987), 199, 206–207. 

92.  DeCurtis, “‘An Outsider in This Society’: An Interview with Don DeLillo,” 52, 63.

93.  Passaro, “Dangerous Don DeLillo,” 75, 81.

94.  Begley, “The Art of Fiction CXXXV: Don DeLillo,” 86, 94–95.

95.  Gerald Howard, “The American Strangeness: An Interview with Don DeLillo,” 119, 130.

96.  Eagleton, “Recent Poetry,” Stand, Spring 1982, 62, 67–68 (reviewing Bertold Brecht, Poems 1913–1956, ed. John Willet and Ralph Manheim [1979]).

97.  Ibid.

98.  Paz, “William Carlos Williams: The Saxifrage Flower,” in On Poets and Others, 13, 13–14.

99.  Ibid., 13, 21.

100.  Paz, “José Ortega y Gasset: The Why and the Wherefore,” in On Poets and Others, 139, 150.

101.  Paz, “Luis Buñuel: Three Perspectives,” in On Poets and Others, 152, 164.

102.  Edmund White, introduction to Jean Genet, Prisoner of Love (1986), trans. Barbara Bray (Wesleyan University Press 1992), i, xviii.

103.  Ibid.

104.  Brother Patrick Hart, introduction to The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, xi, xv, quoting Merton, “Day of a Stranger,” Hudson Review 211 (Summer 1967): 20.

105.  Merton, “Rafael Alberti and His Angels” (1966), in The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, 313, 317.

106.  Rich, “Poetry and Commitment: An Essay” (2007), 21.

107.  Ibid., 25.

108.  Osip Mandelstam, “Conversation About Dante,” in The Poets’ Dante, ed. Peter S. Hawkins and Rachel Jacoff (2001), 40, 51, 53–54.

109.  Ibid., 40, 81.

110.  Ibid.

111.  Mandelstam, “Addenda to ‘Conversation About Dante,’” in The Complete Critical Prose (1979), ed. Jane Gary Harris, trans. Jane Gary Harris and Constance Link (Ardis 1997), 284, 287.

112.  Frank O’Hara, “[Statement for The New American Poetry],” in The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, ed. Donald Allen (University of California Press 1995), 500.

113.  O’Hara, “About Zhivago and His Poems,” in The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, 501, 509.

114.  John Ashbery, “A Conversation with Kenneth Koch,” in Selected Prose, ed. Eugene Richie (2004), 55.

115.  Ashbery, “In the American Grain: A. R. Ammons and John Wheelwright,” in Selected Prose, 137, 143.

116.  Stein, Picasso: The Complete Writings, ed. Edward Burns (Beacon Press 1985), 36–37.

117.  Ibid., 63.

118.  Jean-François Lyotard, The Confession of Augustine, trans. Richard Beardsworth (Stanford University Press 2000), 75.

119.  George Seferis, “Cavafy and Eliot — A Comparison,” in On the Greek Style: Selected Essays in Poetry and Hellenism, ed. Rex Warner and Th. D. Frangopoulos (1966), 121, 152.

120.  Rainer Emig, Modernism in Poetry: Motivations, Structures and Limits (1995), 240–41.

121.  James Scully, Line Break: Poetry and Social Practice (1988), 127.

122.  Hamburger, “A Period Loose at All Ends,” in The Truth of Poetry, 180, 211.

123.  Hamburger, “Internationalism and War,” in The Truth of Poetry, 148, 168.

124.  Fernando Pessoa, “Poesie 138,” trans. Georg Rudolf Lind (1962), quoted in Hamburger, “Multiple Personalities,” in The Truth of Poetry, 110, 139.