Sunday, March 12, 2006

This is wonderful ...

Patrick Kurp prompts us to remember John Ciardi: A Hell of a Poet.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Kurp points to Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides, “the premier jazz blog” as a place to “to learn more about Ciardi, and stay for the celebration of music.” FWIW, I concur, on both counts. Mr Ramsey has several posts about reasons he misses John Ciardi, in one of which he mentions “pieces he did on National Public Radio's Morning Edition in the 1980s” and provides links to several of those pieces.* These NPR recordings will give you a taste of John Ciardi the wonderful speaker and radio “personality.” I saw Mr Ciardi only once in person when he held enthralled a group of students and faculty members and a visitor of a small Midwest college as he sat talking (such a wonderful stream of talk about poetry and writing and language-- and the joys of life-- delivered in a boomingly clear deep voice), in a large wing chair in front of a fireplace in the student union, a master raconteur “in the zone.”

    Mr Ciardi was a wonderful writer-about-poetry (as a critic, journalist, appreciator, textbook writer) as well, whose column in the Saturday Review pointed out many delights of poetry that at least one young man, who read them retrospectively, would’ve missed without his guidance. He pointed out delights, yes, but he also wasn’t afraid to be critical, and pointed out some not-such-delights of poetry; a famous, or infamous, example: in 1957, he panned the poetry of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh, and incurred the wrath of many of his readers: "I must believe," said Mr Ciardi, "that the art of poetry is more important than Mrs. Lindbergh or than you or than me. I am compelled to believe that Mrs. Lindbergh has written an offensively bad book—inept, jingling, slovenly, illiterate even, and puffed up with the foolish afflatus of a stereotyped high-seriousness, that species of aesthetic and human failure that will accept any shriek as a true high-C." Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins said that in response to Mr Ciardi’s review the Saturday Review had received “the biggest storm of reader protest in [our] 33-year history." Criticism of the critic came not only from readers of the magazine, but also from its editor: “Editor Cousins took over the editorial page to criticize Critic Ciardi's criticism and to extol Anne Lindbergh.” But Mr Ciardi would not back down: “Cousins hastened to point out that he was not trying to ‘chastise’ his poetry critic and he gave Ciardi space in the same issue to reply to his critics. Ciardi's second salvo was as fiery as the first. ‘They [are] that sort of pernicious poetry I mean to have none of in SR and . . . they provided an opportunity to offer an essential challenge to the whole pussyfooting process of book reviewing in our national mass media,’ Ciardi said. ‘The reader deserves an honest opinion. If he doesn't deserve it, give it to him anyhow.’ (Quotations are from the Time magazine article Critic Under Fire.)

    Mr Ciardi, ever the poet, composed his own epitaph:

    Here, time concurring (and it does);
    Lies Ciardi. If no kingdom come,
    A kingdom was. Such as it was
    This one beside it is a slum.

    (Found here.)

    *Another Reason I Miss John Ciardi.
    Other Matters: One Reason I Miss John Ciardi.
    38 More Reasons To Miss Ciardi.