Merwin's awesome range, intensity, and feral strangeness are evident in a new two-volume Library of America edition, beautifully edited by J. D. McClatchy. Nearly 1,500 pages in all, it represents an oeuvre so large as to make Robert Lowell’s prodigious output seem puny.
Rich championed just about every major liberal social cause of our time—human rights, gay rights, feminism, and environmental reform. Sometimes Later Poems: Selected and New,1971–2012 reads like a diary of them.
On Tuesday, December 16, the New York Herald printed a list of soldiers killed or wounded at Fredericksburg, including an entry for “First Lieutenant G. W. Whitmore, Company D,” of the 51st New York Infantry. It was mid-morning when poet Walt Whitman saw the item and surmised that it referred to his brother George.
Walt Whitman was a poet of hope and encouragement, but his greatest poem is bleak at heart, ripped bloody, and shredded with despair. He was our verbal cheerleader, our avid egoist as well as our most enthusiastic inclusionist.
Walt Whitman, Charles Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress
The day Abraham Lincoln was first elected president, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) arrived in Washington, DC, to find, in the words of a British reporter, a “strange ci [...]
Through you I shall be born again; myself again and again; myself without others; myself with a tomb; myself beyond death. I imagine you taking my name; I imagine you saying “myself myself” again and again. And suddenly there will be no blue sky [...]
“I was going to hold forth on arms, and the violence of warfare, in a meter suited to the manner,” wrote the Roman poet Ovid at the outset of his Amores, “but Cupid, laughing,” he continued, “stole one foot from the second line,” shifting [...]
The American poetry scene has not gone back to the days of the midcentury generation—nor should it. It also largely avoids the least attractive development that claimed the intervening years, when the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry returned as farce.