By Paul Mariani

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Additional info for A Usable Past: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetry

Sample text

It has therefore been necessary to add an extended coda to this essay in order to take a longer perspective on Warren's brilliant achievement. There are, of course, still a number of poets and critics reviewing Warren's work who feel that these late poems are a falling off from Warren's best work and that he has published entirely too much poetry in the last ten years. But the salutary example here is Thomas Hardy, the poet whom I am most reminded of when I consider Warren's power to Page 9 evoke a world long gone together with its characteristic attitudes of philosophical uncertainty and unease.

So, when Robert Lowell tried to patch things up between Williams and Eliot in 1948, Williams was willing to go along with the reconciliation (he did after all admire much the Possum had wrought), but he Page 26 was quick to warn Lowell (and the rest of us) that the younger generations would be hard put to comprehend what Williams's literary skirmishes had cost his battered spirit. Did Williams actually remember Frost's snub at Bread Loaf, offered in the summer of 1941; did he remember it ten years later when he returned again to Bread Loaf?

I wanted as little of the omniscient author and as little of that easy Monday morning quarterbackingwhether invoking the name of Page 8 Freud or Marx or whomeveras would suffice to order and make sense of the life. I wanted the men and women who made up Williams's world and I wanted them living and believable and delivered in as much of their human complexity as I could manage. And for the purpose of getting the work written I would as soon rely on the narrative skills of a Joyce or a Flaubert or a Faulkner insofar as those skills are available to the biographer.

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