A Usable Past: Essays on Modern & Contemporary Poetry

A Usable Past: Essays on Modern & Contemporary Poetry

A Usable Past: Essays on Modern & Contemporary Poetry

A Usable Past: Essays on Modern & Contemporary Poetry

Excerpt

In retrospect, there is an unforced symmetry to this collection which I would not have expected when I consider the varied conditions under which these essays and essay-reviews were first written. A 100-page sec- tion on Williams, then a section half as long on Hopkins, followed by another 100-page section on some of the poets who came into their own after the Second World War, several of them, it will be noticed, influ- enced either by Williams or by Hopkins.

Simply put, Hopkins was my first love, alpha, a figure I needed very much for my own spiritual and intellectual survival as a young man. I was in my last semester at Manhattan College and it was the spring of '62. Kennedy was president, there was the bimonthly stir of American space shots being covered on the black-and-white television in the lobby outside Plato's Cave at the Student Union Center, and Paul Cortissoz had assigned me -- by lottery in essence -- to give a class talk on Yeats. But there were enough ardent Irishmen on campus (not a few of them full-fledged supporters of the old Irish Republican Army) and -- though it was a Catholic college, there was little enough interest in a dead . . .

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