Thursday, June 28, 2007

A poet's life ...

... Frank Kermode on Housman's letters: Nothing for Ever and Ever. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:06 PM

    An excellent review by Frank Kermode. Everything he draws from the letters, however, simply confirms for me that Tom Stoppard really, really understood A.E.H. when he wrote "The Invention of Love." If you haven't seen the play, read the script -- it's a delight. (Like many of Stoppard's plays, you are rewarded by reading as well as seeing the script performed -- he is so sharp that bons mots bounce past before you've quite caught them, but with a text, you can read and reread at leisure.)

    Housman needed to suffer to create poetry. Somewhere in the play he says that had his love for Jackson been requited, he would probably never have been a poet. There's also some reason given for his choosing Manilus over Propertius -- I think the fact that it was less fertile ground enticed him. Find a lump of gold in there and it's all the more valuable.

    Kermode himself is quite a scholar. He was at Columbia when I was a grad student there and I heard him lecture several times. And I can still remember some of the criticism by him I read (one piece on "the sense of the ending" in novels hangs with me in particular), whereas I can't remember almost anything by anyone else from those arid theoretical days (the 1980s) of tortured thought and crucified prose.

    I hope he gets out his book on E.M. Forster. It, too, will be worth reading. All hail the real scholars of literature: Forster was one, and Housman, Edmund Wilson was one, and Kermode. They're rare and most people don't know who they are until they're dead and time has managed to blow away the dross of their cohorts' work. Then theirs can stand clear, assuming there are readers with minds left to recognize the gold in the ashy fields.