Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop My rating: 5 of 5 stars Elizabeth Bishop went to Brazil in 1951 and stayed for 15 years, living with her lover, Lota de Macedo Soares. The first half of this 1965 volume of poetry, her third, variously documents this extended sojourn: titled "Brazil," it includes not only lyrics… Continue reading Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead

For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell My rating: 3 of 5 stars The tag next to Robert Lowell's corpus in the museum of literary history designates him the most influential American poet of the 20th century's second half—less the founder of a school (Confessional Poetry) than an author the gravity of whose work legitimated… Continue reading Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe My rating: 5 of 5 stars Goethe's Faust, including Part One and Part Two, was written over the entire course of the author's adult life, begun when he was in his twenties and finished when he was in his eighties, at the threshold of death. Many dates can be… Continue reading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

Hart Crane, The Bridge

The Bridge by Hart Crane My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Bridge (1930) is a long poem seven years in the making. It was written under several varieties of duress, alcoholism and despair chief among them, by a poet who would, within two years of his masterpiece's composition, take his own life at the… Continue reading Hart Crane, The Bridge

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith My rating: 4 of 5 stars This celebrated 2011 volume from the current U.S. poet laureate is her elegy for her father, a scientist who worked on the Hubble telescope. Your context changes how you read any given book, and I was reading this in the context of… Continue reading Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich My rating: 3 of 5 stars In the blurb on the cover of this paperback, Margaret Atwood promises that this book "forces you to decide not just what you think about it, but what you think about yourself." Rich's seventh collection, written in the early '70s,… Continue reading Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Back to School: Literature Springs Eternal

Most of my reading matter for the spring semester is above. (You can find the syllabi here.) As with ordering from a new and affordable menu, the digestive organ may be too small for the appetite: in other words, perhaps too many books! Extracurricularly, I am currently reading a long, dense book, Saul Bellow's The Adventures… Continue reading Back to School: Literature Springs Eternal

My Year in Books, 2017

But let's start with movies. Ten years ago, the Scottish musician and critic Momus observed that one of the most acclaimed films of 2007, Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-Civil-War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth, was morally and politically simplistic and (or because) artistically complacent. He gave ten objections to the film; I will quote the first two: 1. The… Continue reading My Year in Books, 2017

Dante, Paradiso

Paradiso by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Here is what you've heard about the Divine Comedy: the Inferno, with its poignantly vivid tortures and its cacophony of wicked voices, is the most entertaining canticle, beloved of various and sundry; the Purgatorio, with its wistful focus on the lives and ambitions of poets and its… Continue reading Dante, Paradiso

Dante, Purgatorio

Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri My rating: 4 of 5 stars Allen Mandelbaum begins his introduction to his wonderful translation thusly:   For the Virgil of Dante's Purgatorio, "love is the seed in you of every virtue/and of all acts deserving punishment" (XVII, 104-105). To find one same source for all good and all evil is… Continue reading Dante, Purgatorio