Friday, July 29, 2011

Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book

My review of Robert Duncan's The H.D. Book is in this week's Times Literary Supplement (print only). Here's a little taster to whet your appetite (the long quote is from The H.D. Book):

According to Duncan, the New Criticism is a conspiracy of protestant schoolmen to “exorcize” the magic of poetry.

In the literary establishment Eliot had won the day – he had, indeed, designed that literary establishment in his essays; and H.D., along with Lawrence and even Pound . . . belonged with those who had departed from what reasonable men consider of concern and had lusted after strange gods . . . The concept of a revealed poetry was not in tune with the mode of the great literary reviews of the forties. The new critics were partisans of what they called the rational imagination . . . ‘Inspiration’, ‘spell’, ‘rapture’ – the constant terms of The War Trilogy – are not accepted virtues in the classroom, where Dream or Vision are disruptive of a student’s attentions . . . The War Trilogy was not written, any more than Paterson or The Pisan Cantos were, for classrooms, anthologies, or the new reviews.

Although elsewhere he acknowledges T. S. Eliot as one of his “old masters”, Duncan largely disparages him in The H.D. Book. The Waste Land he describes as a “period charade”, while Williams's Spring and All is “the spring of a new poetics”. Williams declared The Waste Land “the great catastrophe to our letters”, and Eliot ensured, Duncan says, that “Williams was never taken up in England”.


Eric Forbes said...

Enjoyed the piece. Thank you. Congrats on your first collection, Ian!

Ian Pindar said...

Thanks very much, Eric. Good of you to drop by. All the best.