THIS CHAPTER is divided into two parts; the first part is autobiographical and the second is theoretical. The first part tells the story of how I became a critic and the second part is an outline of my poetics, such as they are. These are two views of the same subject and I hope each section will throw light on the other.
The present essays are intended to be the last criticism I shall ever write. In this book I am getting together those few essays which I think worth keeping and which I hope will be of some help to young poets and would-be critics. It is the small mass of my own discarded criticism which I want to mention here before going on to my ideas of the theory and practice of poetry.
Whenever I meet a young poet I ask him among other things how much he knows about criticism. If he says he knows nothing I breathe a sigh of relief for both of us; if he begins to talk about criticism instead of poetry I know the conversation will soon grind to an embarrassing halt. On the other hand,