T.S. Eliot stands at the head of the table of modern poets who were associated with Harvard. This survey of Harvard and Yale (and mostly Harvard) poetry culture between the world wars, by no means complete in its scope, but rather touching on some salient points of interest, in some cases resurrecting the little known or virtually unknown, will not so much address Eliot—or the other modernist Harvard poets of his generation (Stevens, Frost, Aiken)—directly as by insinuation, referring to him as the story of the smaller figures who followed him, and who worked under his sign, requires it.
Closer to the beginning of our story is E.E. Cummings, Eliot's immediate successor as a modern poet at Harvard, who at Harvard kept a rapid eye on all of the unfolding events of modernism in Europe, and modernized himself—as the phrase goes—by paying great attention to the little magazines of the period.
If I pick up a random copy of the Harvard Monthly from February, 1913, I find two poems each by E.E. Cummings and by Scofield Thayer, the latter being the literary impresario who bought and revamped the magazine The Dial with his Harvard classmate James Sibley Watson, Jr., and who would serve as among the greatest champions of modernism in the early 1920s, publishing key modernist works by Cummings, Stevens, Yeats, Pound, Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot and many others, including The Waste Land. Cummings and Thayer are inextricably associated not only for Thayer's committed championing of Cummings from the initial publication of seven poems by Cummings in the first issue of the Thayer-Watson Dial, in January 1920, but in that they were in love with the same woman, Elaine Orr, first Thayer's wife, but before long the mother of Cummings' daughter Nancy. Among the most notable poems in Cummings' first collection, Tulips and Chimneys (New York: Thomas D. Seltzer, 1923), is the long opening "Epithalamion" which Thayer commissioned Cummings to write as a wedding present for Elaine Orr on the occasion of Thayer's marriage to her in June 1916:
Thou aged unreluctant earth who dost
with quivering continual thighs invite
the thrilling rain the slender paramour
to toy with thy extraordinary lust,
(the sinuous rain which rising from thy bed
steals to his wife the sky and hour by hour
wholly renews her pale flesh with delight)
—immortally whence are the high gods fled?
* * *
O still miraculous May!O shining girl
of time untarnished!O small infinite
gently primeval hands,frivolous feet
divine!O singular and breathless pearl!
O indefinable frail ultimate pose!
O visible beatitude sweet sweet
of god's evasive audible great rose!
* * *
O thou within the chancel of whose charms
the tall boy god of everlasting war
received the shuddering sacrament of sleep,
betwixt whose cool incorrigible arms
impaled upon delicious mystery,
with gaunt limbs reeking of the whispered deep,
deliberate groping ocean fondled o'er
the warm long flower of unchastity,
imperial Cytherea,from frail foam
sprung with irrevocable nakedness
to strike the young world into smoking song—
as the first star perfects the sensual dome
of darkness,and the sweet strong final bird
transcends the sight, O thou to whom belong
the hearts of lovers!—I beseech thee bless
thy suppliant singer and his wandering word.
These few extracted stanzas give a sense of the more or less blatant undercurrent of Cummings' attitude towards the situation. Here is a Scofield Thayer poem from 1913:
Now is the time when the great sun dies
And weeping stars draw near,
Now is the time when the dead sun tries
To linger a moment here.
The mourners are rich with golden pelf
And their splendour the night unbars . . .
Bring but the gift of thy perfect self
And I shall not see the stars.
Thayer was right to go into publishing. From 1920 on, the Harvard-bred Thayer-Watson Dial was an enormous influence on young poets awakening to modernism everywhere, an influence that reached its zenith with the apocalyptic publication of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land in the November 1922 issue.
Ezra Pound dated the general interest in Eliot's poetry to 1918, though an awareness would have been felt more acutely and personally earlier on at Harvard. Here is E.E. Cummings reviewing T.S. Eliot's Poems in the June 1920 number of The Dial:
[W]e like that not any of Poems' fifty-one pages fails to impress us with an overwhelming sense of technique. By technique we do not mean a great many things, including: anything static, a school, a noun, a slogan, a formula, These Three For Instant Beauty, Ars Est Celare, Hasn't Scratched Yet, Professor Woodberry, Grape Nuts. By technique we do mean one thing: the alert hatred of normality which, through the lips of a tactile and cohesive adventure, asserts that nobody in general and some one in particular is incorrigibly and actually alive. This someone is, it would seem, the extremely great artist: or, he who prefers above everything and within everything the unique dimension of intensity, which it amuses him to substitute in us for the comforting and comfortable furniture of reality. If we examine the means through which this substitution is allowed by Mr. Eliot to happen in his reader, we find that they include: a vocabulary almost brutally tuned to attain distinctness; an extraordinarily tight orchestration of the shapes of sound; the delicate and careful murderings—almost invariably interpreted, internally as well as terminally, through near-rhyme and rhyme—of established tempos by oral rhythms.
Scofield Thayer was prone to paranoia and madness and whether or not as a consequence of Cummings stealing his wife was eventually committed to mental institutions. Writing about "stimuli" responsible for modernism (painting in this case) in the October 1921 issue of The Dial, Thayer ominously and prophetically wrote:
The third stimulus is a "well-known form of insanity," a combination of deteriorated vision with deteriorated emotion, bad perspective, and an "uncontrollable desire to mutilate the human body" (the stimulus also, one imagines, of modern surgery). The learned opinions of psychiatrists who admit they can see no difference between any drawing done in their asylums and a Renoir, are quoted at length in support of this theory. One grants Van Gogh's lunacy; and one recalls that modern medicine owes discoveries to dipsomaniacs and that the inventor of 606 had the bad taste to belong to a nation which our psychiatrists used to characterize, when they could think of nothing worse, as victims, en masse, of paranoia.
Although the contents had been ready to go two years earlier, due to a printer's delay it was in 1917 that Laurence J. Gomme of New York brought out a small anthology, Eight Harvard Poets, whose contributors included E. Estlin Cummings, S. Foster Damon, J.R. Dos Passos, Robert Hillyer, R.S. Mitchell, William A. Norris, Dudley Poore, and Cuthbert Wright. Cummings led the affair off, with four traditional sonnets followed by four distinctly modernist poems in free verse.
The volume was mythic in the lore of young modernist poets at Harvard, and was the inspiration and model for the 1923 anthology Eight More Harvard Poets, edited by S. Foster Damon and Robert Hillyer, with an introduction by Dorian Abbott (John Brooks Wheelwright), and published by Brentano's in New York (publication was financed by Wheelwright's aunt, Louise Brooks). The eight Harvard poets included in this volume were Norman Cabot, Grant Code, Malcolm Cowley, Jack Merten, Joel T. Rogers, R. Cameron Rogers, Royall Snow, and John Brooks Wheelwright. Wheelwright's introduction as Dorian Abbott gave a concise and informative account of the history of Harvard poetry from the publication of Verses from the Harvard Advocate in 1876 to the present, and helpfully provided bibliographical details regarding a number of Harvard poetry anthologies that had appeared in the interim. Hart Crane singled out Wheelwright and Cowley for praise in a brief review of Eight More Harvard Poets which appeared in S4N, edited by Norman Fitts in Northampton, Mass. Wheelwright assisted Cowley and Matthew Josephson with the editing of Secession briefly in 1923. The moniker stuck, and the "Eight Harvard Poets" achieved a kind of expansive fame among the younger Cantabrigian and Harvard poets who mostly all knew each other, a set that included Richard Palmer Blackmur and his cousin George Anthony Palmer, John Sherry Mangan, Elliot Paul (who would go on to edit the magazine Transition with Eugene Jolas), and Dudley Fitts. Fitts would later write that he owed his literary education "to my association, as an undergraduate, with John Wheelwright, Foster Damon, Grant Code, and Richard Blackmur."
The group was loosely centered around S. Foster Damon, '14, and around John Wheelwright (who helped to found the New England Poetry Club during the war, wrote its history, and was a bit of an impresario of poetry events for the NEPC in and around Boston and Cambridge). Of the local reaction to The Waste Land, R.P. Blackmur would later write (in "The Beauty of It Hot", The Griffin, January 1960):
Some at Harvard insisted that it was a hoax, and that we young ones who adhered to it would feel shabby indeed when Eliot let on; when indeed one could only have asked for another hoax as good; and I now think it was a great tribute to have called it a hoax. Then we were angry, but some of our anger was fun; for I remember that in the spring of 1923 we had a grand performance on Beacon Hill, in the Barn on Joy Street, where Elliot Paul read his parody of The Waste Land, part by part, in antiphony to my reading of the poem itself, which gave everybody a chance for his own reason in madness.
John Brooks Wheelwright was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on September 9, 1897. His father, Edmund March Wheelwright, the ninth direct descendant of the Reverend John Wheelwright of Cambridge University, a relation of John Dryden who arrived at Massachusetts in 1636, was an eminent architect who had been a cofounder of the Harvard Lampoon as an undergraduate, and later designed the Lampoon Building on Mt. Auburn St. in 1909. A story which I have often heard from Philip Nikolayev over the years, and which continues to have life as unverified Harvard folklore, is that when William Randolph Hearst was an undergraduate at Harvard, he served as business manager of the Lampoon, and that he later funded the construction of the Lampoon Building. Hearst was not only expelled from Harvard, but expunged, which is to say stricken from the records so that it was if he had never been there. His expunction was brought on by a series of pranks, two of which return to memory. At Christmas, Hearst gave each of his professors (including William James and Josiah Royce) an expensive handcrafted chamberpot, with the corresponding professor's face engraved on the bottom. In the Dean's office, he placed a live donkey, with a legend dangling from its neck reading: "Now there's two of us."
On his mother's side of the family, Wheelwright was the great-great-grandson of Peter Chardon Brooks, who had once been the wealthiest merchant in New England. In 1912, while Wheelwright was attending St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, his father committed suicide. Wheelwright had grown up on an enormous state which had belonged to Brooks, and which was "sold to developers and built over as Boston expanded" (John Ashbery, Other Traditions, Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 2000). Wheelwright referred to this property as "the most splendid garden of Massachusetts" and described its fate thus:
Even as it was built of profits from the exploitation of the sea, so it has long been destroyed by profit-seeking exploitation of the land. The fact that its fate was its appropriate destiny gives no comfort to them who loved it, and who, with its vanishing, found themselves deprived, as by a racial blood-letting, of the body of their cultural heritage. (Wheelwright, note to "Paul and Virginia", Collected Poems, 58)
Wheelwright offended Harvard's administrators and was expelled from Harvard, for failures of attendance, in November 1920. According to Malcolm Cowley, Wheelwright's expulsion was brought on by the misspelling of a word. Wheelwright had been "put on probation for simply forgetting to take the final examination in one of his courses. Students on probation had to attend all their classes or offer an excuse that was convincing to the dean, who was hard to convince. Jack missed a class and then appeared in the dean's office with his excuse in writing: 'I was absent yesterday from English 14'—or whatever the course was—'because I had acute nausia after seeing the moving picture, Broken Blossoms.'" (Cowley, Exile's Return, 159)
The Harvard Advocate for May 1920 carried the following poem by John Brooks Wheelwright, '20 (not in Collected Poems):
TO THE CLASS OF 1920
When, catching my own glance, I analyzed
What stared so impolitely from the mirror,
I wonder if I earnestly despised
That callow face. Or did I hold it dearer
Because, unlike my classmates, I preferred
Talk of autumnal women, always mellow;
Or boys, with whom my well-considered word
Not always marked me as a crazy fellow?
Your naked, small ambitions are disgusting;
You prize the world's poor business more than peace;
You know no virtue, save your charm; encrusting
Your speech with filth, you ape senilities.
Waiting for age to make me less uncouth,
I dare condemn, too harshly, your conceit
And, blaming your inevitable youth,
Condemn myself as well and own—defeat.
Eight More Harvard Poets was shortly afterwards the occasion for a parody anthology, Eight Most Harvard Poets, a slim volume in wrappers which printed satirical verses by the same poets, writing under fictitious names (Eight Most Harvard Poets, Un-edited by the Harvard Poetry Society, New York: Brentano's, 1923). The poets included were John Yard Copp (Norman Cabot), Ottor Dashe, Instructor of English A (Grant Code), Maxmilian Keezer (Malcolm Cowley), Jimmie Waldorf (Jack Merten), Wyd O'Nolen (Joel T. Rogers), Aston Deane (R. Cameron Rogers), Hagg Bunkmaker Goody (Royall Snow), and George Washington Terry (John Brooks Wheelwright). From the Preface by Platipod (Wheelwright):
As Eight More Harvard Poets covered a period like those which hazy historians knock prone by the term "transition,"so EIGHT MOST HARVARD POETS reveals a period in which the dominant underlying ebullience of feeling, which has formed the heritage of this most recent of college generations, is at last asserted and understood. But this new volume does more than give permanent expression to this new feeling, this re-naissance, to coin a phrase; it reaches further, sounds deeper. Instead of the juvenilia, and sometimes the prematurity, already overripe, of various contributors, this book comprises the best, the chef d'œuvre, the coup de maitre, of men who stand out as integral parts of the complex Harvard life of today. So various, so elusive, so obscure has the spirit of this life been at times, that if this little volume has succeeded in capturing fleeting impressions of it, the hopes of the editors are more than satisfied.
This preface was dated from "31 Rattle Place, Cambridge, February 29, 1923". The accession date stamped on the Harvard College Library copy is March 23, 1923. My own copy bears an inscription date of April 25, 1923.
Grant Hyde Code, '18, is an interesting and forgotten figure. In the 20s and 30s he continued to publish poems in such magazines as Yvor Winters' Gyroscope, Richard Johns' Pagany, The New Republic, Poetry, and The Hound & Horn. Yvor Winters proclaimed him "one of the most distinguished poets living." No book appeared, with the exception of two slim pamphlets privately printed in Cambridge, Mass.—Volume One (1924?), and the emerald green Volume Two (Published by the Author, 22 Warren House, Cambridge, Mass.; Printed by The Powell Printing Company, Cambridge, Mass., 1924). Here is Grant Code in Eight More Harvard Poets:
THE SONS OF HEAVEN
For a Painting by Nicholas Roerich
DEEP in the shoreward crags of earth is cleft
A fissure, where the gloomy slabs of jade
Gleam through the purple and blue of shadow, laid
Dull lacquer on the stone. A pool is left,
Blue silver frosted. But beyond the rift
The hidden sea's wave symphony is played
Against the dead cliff's outer barricade,
Whence to the silent gorge no echoes drift.
Four earthly women, wanly celibate,
Crouch at the threshold of a cavern mouth—
A chasm of shadow in a chasm riven—
One turning back; two mutely desolate;
And one with face uplifted toward the south—
Sightless before the ruddy sons of heaven.
Here is Code's parody of the poem, as Ottor Dashe of English A, in Eight Most Harvard Poets:
THE FIRST LESSON
DEEP in a rearward page of Briggs is writ
A figure, where the gloomy tricks a jade
Plots in the purple shadows, are betrayed—
Sly knocker on the door. A clue is hit
How silver 'ld frost her. But beyond the wit
The hidden meaning's subtlety is laid
Against the reader's outer barricade,
Whence young sophistication echoes it.
Four earthly women, warmly celibate,
Crouch at the threshold of a Freshman's room—
A chasm of light is opened bye and bye—
One turning back, two mutely desolate
Departing, and the last in silent gloom
Watching him while he calmly ties his tie.
Whole lot of crouching going on. Here is the mature Grant Code in the first number of Pagany (Winter 1930):
RELIGION AT 2 A. M.
At this time in the morning, said she. . .
(It being then two of a December night
with the wind blowing out of the North Atlantic
and into the river, and me in a hurry to get her home,
before she stopped another police officer
to ask him what time it was) at this time, said she,
I always feel particularly religious.
(Putting the arm of her fur coat, wet with snow,
round my neck again, and kissing me
with emotion that I took to be purely
religious.) You are drunk, said I.
It was perfectly good whiskey and I am
not! said she. It is the time of night
when heaven is closest to the earth
and I am happy in the love of the stars
and the benediction of the moon.
I rejoice with them that I am beautiful
as God meant me to be, and not ugly,
as the devil makes people who go to church
and rejoice that they are better than I am.
You are very drunk, said I. I am
not! said she. Officer, what time is it?
Time little girls were in bed. Officer!
Sad I, pray be civil. I am, said he,
but my watch is in my vest pocket and it is
a cold night! said he. And! if you make any more
of that ungodly racket at this time of night. . .
She interrupted: It was a most godly racket, said
she, for I was worshipping the beauty of God's night
and rejoicing in the name of the Lord. It is illegal,
said he, to fish, shoot, sell goods, deliver political
speeches, preach or pray in this public park. Also,
it is illegal to cuss in public. I didn't, said she.
You said God and Lord, said he. That is illegal.
You laughed when you said them, too, and that is
Blasphemy! Lord bless you, officer, said she,
God give you good night. Come on, said I.
I come rejoicing, said she, rejoicing in the name of God
who created nice boobs to buy me whiskey
and funny police officers who prevent good little girls
from praying, but most of all I rejoice
that I am beautiful, and that the night
is full of stars and God, to whom I give thanks
illegally for all His goodness.
John Joseph Sherry Mangan was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, on June 27, 1904. He entered Harvard in 1921, where he studied classics and became introduced to Wheelwright at meetings of the Harvard Poetry Society. Virgil Thomson introduced peyote to Mangan, who subsequently obtained "mescal caps by mail from New Mexico for the peyote parties in his room in Weld Hall." (Virgil Thomson, An Autobiography, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1966). Early in 1927, Mangan started the press of The Lone Gull in Lynn. In February 1927, Mangan edited, designed, hand set and hand printed, in a barn or garage at 36 Monroe Street, Lynn, the first issue of larus: The Celestial Visitor, which was to appear irregularly in a run of five issues through June 1928. larus printed poems by Hart Crane, Yvor Winters, and R.P. Blackmur, and criticism by George Anthony Palmer and Blackmur. Virgil Thomson was its Editor in France.
According to the finding aid for the Sherry Mangan papers at Houghton Library (a gift of George Anthony Palmer), Mangan "was a journalist, poet, translator, and Trotskyist. He was a foreign correspondent for Time, Life, and Fortune in Paris and Buenos Aires. He was active in the Fourth International. He wrote under his own name and under the following pseudonyms: John Niall, Sean Niall, Owen Pilar, Terence Phelan, Patrick O'Daniel, and Patrice." The stint for Luce began in the 40s. Mangan was close with John Wheelwright throughout the 30s, engaging in various do-it-yourself publishing and political ventures.
Mangan's poems are chiefly collected in No Apology for Poetrie, And Other Poems Written 1922-1931 (Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc., 1934). Here is a poem which appeared in the Winter 1931 number of Pagany:
For Louise Tarr
QVIQVE AMAVIT NVNC AMET
'Spring, Spring, beautiful Spring'
Winter came early, and brought peace. Over the museum
the lifted glance met blank grey sky; the eye untroubled
returned to the page. Home from simple gayeties, we found
grateful fires and impatient work. There were sorrows. Gently.
There was loneliness. There is always loneliness. A slight
tonic. 'A quiet winter,' said Odysseus. It was a quiet winter,
and a good winter. Good friendship, and usually food enough.
We thought on Egypt, smiled at lovers; observed and chronicled.
Winter lasted on, ran into March, and drew us
unthinking with it. That day the stroke of three
lifted our eyes from Poggio, with the reflection:
Valla is cooler. Tomorrow further; in half an hour
the publishers; tea is at Nestor's. We emerged,
weighing a syllogism, on the steps, when unexpected Spring
drowned us in sun, doused us with warmth, and at the new smell
we gasped, our humanity pouring over us in a hot rich flood;
gasping, drenched in the sudden sense of living, we staggered
to a bus-top, obstinated, finding our antidote in mechanism.
We cowered between the flowing walls. Greedy of peace, the mind
held taut, stubborn. People . . . turned living; living turned real
Shaken we sat in the mounting flood, toy to its buffeting.
And then it came; and then it came. (All winter had we
smiled at young lovers, tolerant and kind.) And then
it came. A necklace, a neck, against fur; under the pert
hat, flash the symbol. God knows what face. One dared
not look, but cowered, scrunched, agonized: o Lord, again?
Sleep came not early, brought no peace. Over the steeple
the lifted need met yielding clouds; the eye hungered,
forced through the cloud-rift. Back from the torment, we knew
the fires and the impatience. There were sorrows. Fiercely.
There was singleness; need of deep mingling. A slight
noise seemed to wake us. Beside us lay the two, farther
the third, and beyond the window the swift valorous ships
slipped from our cognizance, and alone the restless waters
remained, the narrow channel, sucking emptily. Morning.
With gentle fatigue moving through increasing morning, striving
to fix the thought on splendor formis, conferring Cajetan,
we set the problem. 'Sins as man but not as artist.' Still,
although the Christian god is love, Apollo is not kind to him
'c'ha l'habito de l'arte e man che trema.' In last analysis
only accomplishment endures. Slight, but it kept us occupied
up the river, into the warm fields, fighting the vernal odors.
She said at length: At the hands' meeting, 'mes sens devinrent
suraigus.' (Les miens . . . sauvages.) And then the puff of air
blew all the mind away, and her dark hair ruffling than all truths
seemed somehow more. And even then we might have fled but did not;
moaned once only and were content; the rest predictable redundancy
mudpuddles and the earlier songs, green smells and the quicker pulse,
young voices and the gentle lassitude, the feeble sweet abandon.
And the end of it caring again, caring, pacing a station platform
late in a Spring night, muttering a newly significant name;
mumbling, ad bonum operantis, ad bonum operis—and the night
indifferently being soft Spring about us. Again, o Lord?
Must Spring each several weary year renew
the human hungering? Are we to the gods
like studs to breeders? On our carcasses
the future battens, each man a hecatomb
(a hundred loves, a hundred deaths thereby)
to pray for further oxen, who in turn
assail aloof gods' noses with fat smoke
for further increase, so ad infinitum.
And might we ask Apollo to what end?
There's little time enough to learn one's letters,
to blow one's little trumpet, and to build
one's little monument (aere perennius,
maybe), but one must be each year a-rutting,
begetting burlesques of himself to mock him.
A pointless—We'll give Spring her tithes:
speak kindly of her lilacs, gape at her moon,
commend her vegetation, nay, we'll even
grow marvelously proper melancholy
about our vanished youth some idle Thursday.
We are betrayed, however. Spring renews the need
each several year; and always she requires
her more than tithes of single strength and seed
burned slowly in her sacrificial fires.
There is no hope till age (and then too late)
shall starve the traitors that within us lie;
from one root sprung, no wise divaricate,
the obstacle and power together die.
There is no hope, for always when the Spring
makes harsh the contrast of our singleness
and lesser sweetness, terrified we cling
to any human comfort or caress.
Hopeless of strength, we flee the lonely years
to warmer cloaks of arms whose kindly wiles
so sweetly press us on the mortal spears
of fresh aroused young breats. And Spring but smiles.
Hence, with each wanted wound, each sweeter pain,
we ask: O Lord, must Spring return again?
S. Foster Damon was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1893, and graduated from Harvard in 1914. He returned from the war as an instructor in the English Department, and later married John Brooks Wheelwright's sister Louise. In the early 20s he wrote frequently for The Occult Review (Ralph Shirley, Ed. London: William Rider and Son, Ltd.). His scholarly works included studies of Blake, and of Poe and Thomas Chivers, and he taught at Brown for many years.
Reviewing S. Foster Damon's first collection Astrolabe in larus (May 1927), R.P. Blackmur wrote:
The task of the mystical poet and part of the task of the metaphysical poet (the distinction ought not to lapse) is to translate the vivid tenuity of the unimaginable experience into the image. Most experience is common but for the context, and the poet is likely to find any thought he may have, poised within a form of old words or clustered upon an old symbol. But the forms are jaded, and the thoughts seem so, until their freshness is restored by fixation in a new, personal context.
Here the poet as poet enters;—and finds, curiously, that the more he uses the old forms and symbols, while preserving the new context, the more successful he will be. The feat of balance is difficult, and your less conscious mystics by an excess of originality usually fail of all but thunder, terror, and dark words. They have taken their own myth—that of the inner life—too seriously. Mr. Damon's verse is free of this defect. His ten years study of Blake et al. has given his verse a kind of discipline in mysticism. ("Mysticism and Morality", 26)
and singled out for quotation such lines as—
Then eyes fall from their state as stars
And glow like nearly gone cigars—
A notable Damon poem is "The Great Experiment", which appeared in the July-September, 1929 number of The Hound & Horn: A Harvard Miscellany.
Richard Palmer Blackmur was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on January 21, 1904. He entered the Peabody School in Cambridge (directly across the street from where I am writing this) in the fourth grade, and was expelled from Cambridge High and Latin (for quarreling with the headmaster, he told Allen Tate) in 1920, an episode which prevented him his dream of entering Harvard. At 21, he opened Dickson and Blackmur, Sellers of New and Old Books, at 87 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge, with his friend Wallace Dickson, an enterprise that was backed by Harvard Square bookseller Maurice Firuski. When the shop went bankrupt in 1926, Blackmur went to work for Firuski at his shop, the Dunster House Bookshop, which favored fine printing and was a gathering place for intellectuals. From early on a fierce autodidact, who was convinced that his calling was as a poet, Blackmur's education was, according to Gordon Cairnie, proprietor of the Grolier Book Shop on Plympton Street, entirely received in the armchair of the Grolier. Correspondence was another means of branching out. Blackmur, for example, was soon corresponding with Ezra Pound, Scofield Thayer of The Dial, and T.S. Eliot. In October 1926, his first published poem, "Alma Venus", appeared in Poetry.
In 1927, the same year that Sherry Mangan started larus, two Harvard undergraduates, Lincoln Kirstein and Varian Fry, having been given to understand that they would not be approved admission to the editorial board of the Harvard Advocate, made plans to publish a literary magazine of their own, principally funded by Kirstein's father, the president of Filene's Department Store in Boston. The Hound & Horn, subtitled "A Harvard Miscellany" in its earliest numbers, quickly became perceived as a successor to The Dial as it opened its editorial door to much of the most exciting poetry and criticism that was being written. Blackmur was a contributor from the first issue, and in The Hound & Horn's second year was made managing editor, a position which he held for two years before resigning when there was no funding to provide him with a salary. He continued to contribute to the magazine, and many of the essays that he published there were collected in what might be considered the first book of the New Criticism to have been grown and harvested on American soil, The Double Agent (New York: Arrow Editions, 1935). A seminal, long essay on T.S. Eliot, the first extended critical analysis of its kind, was published in the third and fourth issues of The Hound & Horn, and then republished, from off-prints, as a pamphlet (and Blackmur's first book) by The Hound & Horn in 1928. Shortly afterwards, S. Foster Damon published the first extended critical analysis of Joyce's Ulysses in the pages of The Hound & Horn ("The Odyssey in Dublin", October-December, 1929). Around that time, Yvor Winters and Allen Tate, who were, along with Blackmur, to be the mainstays of Hound & Horn criticism, began publishing reviews in the magazine, for which they would eventually become regional editors. Among the earliest editorial triumphs for Blackmur and the magazine, were securing, during the heyday of the debate about Humanism, an essay from T.S. Eliot himself, "Second Thoughts About Humanism" (July-September, 1929), as well as poems by Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, John Wheelwright, Louis Zukofsky, Yvor Winters, Malcolm Cowley, Dudley Fitts, and Ezra Pound ("Cantos XXVIII-XXX", April-June, 1930). Prose by Pound and Joyce, poetry by Eliot ("Difficulties of a Statesman", October-December, 1932), a stunning Henry James number of the magazine (April-June,1934),photographs by Walker Evans, articles about Harvard and other architecture by H.R. Hitchcock, an Agrarian essay by Donald Davidson, fiction by Caroline Gordon, poetry and criticism by Harvard graduates J. Robert Oppenheimer and Francis Fergusson, several poems by Blackmur, and, posthumously, letters by Hart Crane to his patron Otto H. Kahn, would appear in the magazine before it ceased publication in mid-1934, when Kirstein decided that he preferred to throw his father's money into opera.
It is often forgotten that Harry Crosby, the son of a prominent Boston banker, and later the publisher of the Black Sun Press in Paris (which published the first edition of Hart Crane's The Bridge in 1930), and who died in a notorious double-suicide in a Manhattan hotel room in 1929, entered Harvard upon returning from the war early in 1919, and was given a War Degree in the spring of 1921. Apparently Crosby did not reveal his literary interests while at Harvard, nor did he mingle with poets at the time. He preferred to party. But it would be fair to include him in this survey. Here is "Assassin", from the first number of Pagany (Winter 1930):
(voici le temps des assassins—Rimbaud)
(unleash the sword and fire—Shelley)
I exchange eyes with the Mad Queen
the mirror crashes against my face and
bursts into a thousand suns
all over the city flags crackle and bang
fog horns scream in the harbor
the wind hurricanes through the window
and I begin to dance the dance of the
I stamp upon the floor
I whirl like dervishes
colors revolve dressing and undressing
I lash them with fury
stark white with iron black
harsh red with blue
marble green with bright orange
and only gold remains naked
columns of steel rise and plunge
emerge and disappear
pistoning in the river of my soul
I roar with joy
black-footed ferrets disappear into holes
the sun tattooed on my back
begins to spin
faster and faster
throwing out a glory of sparks
sparks shoot off into space
sparks into shooting stars
shooting stars collide with comets
Naked Colors Explode
I crash out through the
window naked, widespread
I uproot an obelisk and plunge
it into the ink-pot of the
I write the word
across the dreary palimpsest
of the world
I pour the contents of the
Red Sea down my throat
I erect catapults and
lay siege to the cities of the world
I scatter violent disorder
throughout the kingdoms of the world
I stone the people of the world
I stride over mountains
I pick up oceans like thin cards
and spin them into oblivion
I kick down walled cities
I hurl giant firebrands against governments
I thrust torches through the eyes of the law
I annihilate museums
I demolish libraries
I oblivionize skyscrapers
I become hard as adamant
strong as battle
indurated in solid fire
rigid with hatred
I bring back the wizards and the sorcerers
I practise witchcraft
I set up idols
with a sharp edged sword
I cut through the crowded streets
comets follow in my wake
stars make obeisance to me
the moon uncovers her
nakedness to me
I am the harbinger of a
New Sun World
I bring the Seed of a
I proclaim the Mad Queen
I stamp out vast empires
I crush palaces in my rigid
I harden my heart against
I blot out cemeteries
I feed the people with
I resurrect madness
I thrust my naked sword
between the ribs of the world
I murder the world!
The Harvard poets were far from unaware of literary developments in Britain and Europe. Here is George Anthony Palmer in larus (April-May-June 1928), writing about I. A. Richards:
He is very much aware of the change in life and attitude we are experiencing. He is convinced that a reorganization is necessary. He knows that science must play a large part in that reorganization. And he realizes that the advent of the scientific mind must profoundly affect not only our contemporary arts but the value of the already-existing body of poetry.
* * *
As a scientist, Richards began by definition: that of poetry. Strangely, his definition coincides with that of T.S. Eliot, who is by no means a scientist. Poetry is experience. The condition is necessary but not sufficient. A great many things can be defined as experience: crossing a river, or feeding the monkeys. There follows an analysis of the poetic experience in which one point must be noted. In reading a poem there are set up two currents: a stream of thought, and a stream of emotions or "interests". It is from the latter stream that poetry derives its value. Our minds are made up of interests (not thoughts; these are the governors") in perpetual agitation. A poem is valuable only in so far as it tends to establish among these interests a kind of equilibrium. ("Schematic Diagram for an Essay on Science and the Critic", 77)
From 1930 on, William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity was—as he later avowed in New Criticism in the United States (Tokyo: 1959)—an enormous influence on Blackmur.
It was with the publication, in the January-March, 1931 issue of The Hound & Horn, of "E.E.Cummings' Language", that Blackmur began the string of essays on modern poets (later to be collected in The Double Agent) that became one of The Hound & Horn's greatest triumphs, and which would positively make Blackmur a hero, a sensation, and even a god to a younger generation of poets—Delmore Schwartz, John Berryman, Robert Lowell among them—who were deepening daily in their passion for modern poetry; they devoured each issue of The Hound & Horn and analyzed each word of Blackmur's twisted, canny prose that was like poetry, propelled onward by Blackmur's own adherence to the most scrupulous of standards. When Blackmur attacked Pound, his own former hero, or Cummings, he made them seem highly important for being worth criticizing. His serious devotion to what was cosmically possible caused him to demonstrate the fine importance of these new, modernist works, and the outer limits of the problems they posed, by an analytic, surgical attention to their faults. He made them seem vitally important enough to worry deeply over with a grave precision. He pushed you far in your attention to yourself and language, and in doing so refined the language, and the possibilities for poetry, by fixing their defects. Blackmur elevated obscurity to a modern and lyric crisis. His influence was such that he made younger poets like Delmore Schwartz, John Berryman and Robert Lowell more complex and difficult for wanting to be worthy of being reviewed by a critic like Blackmur, in the mode. Yet they also came away with his rigour of thought; and he made them feel that perhaps there were new possibilities for poetry, if the best of the moderns were not good enough. His essay on Hart Crane stunned the imagination in this way. Despite its negative assessment of Crane, it remains perhaps the best and most vitalizing essay on Crane's poetry. Berryman, Schwartz and Lowell all idolized Blackmur, and both Berryman and Schwartz importunely did him favours while they were in their early twenties. All three would wind up being associated with Harvard before the outbreak of the second world war.
Blackmur on Cummings (1930):
It is not great advantage to get rid of one set of flabby generalities if the result is merely the immersion of the sensibility in another set only superficially less flabby. The hardness of the tough guy is mostly in the novelty of the language. There is no hardness in the emotion. The poet is as far from the concrete as before. By denying the dead intelligence and putting on the heresy of unintelligence, the poet only succeeds in substituting one set of unnourished conventions for another. What survives, with a deceptive air of reality, is a surface. That the deception is often unintentional hardly excuses it. The surface is meant to clothe and illuminate a real substance, but in fact it is impenetrable. We are left, after experiencing this sort of art, with the certainty that there was nothing to penetrate. The surface was perfect; the deceit was childish; and the conception was incorrigibly sentimental: all because of the dogma which made them possible.
If Mr. Cummings' tough-guy poems are excellent examples of this sentimentality, it is only natural that his other poems—those clothed in the more familiar language of the lyric—should betray even more obviously, even more perfectly, the same fault. There, in the lyric, there is no pretence at hardness of surface. We are admitted at once to the bare emotion. What is more striking, in every instance, about this emotion is the fact that, in so far as it exists at all, it is Mr. Cummings' emotion, so that our best knowledge of it must be, finally, our best guess. It is not an emotion resulting from the poem; it existed before the poem began and is a result of the poet's private life. Besides its inspiration, every element in the poem, and its final meaning as well, must be taken at face value or not at all. This is the extreme form, in poetry, of romantic egoism: whatever I experience is real and final, and whatever I say represents what I experience. Such a dogma is the natural counterpart of the denial of the intelligence. (The Double Agent, 3-4)
Blackmur on Pound (1933):
Not only must the reader know exactly what books Mr. Pound used but must himself use them in the way Mr. Pound used them. When he discovers that "But dey got de mos' bloody rottenes' peace on us" is Mr. Pound's equivalent for Broglio's statement that the Pope imposed a bad peace, he will not be so much pleased with his acumen as irritated by the probability that many other lines are equally, but undiscoverably, quirky. In short, at the maximum vantage of half-instructed guessing, he will be convinced he was much better off, and the Cantos were better poetry, when he was ignorant of the intricacy of their character; and the conviction will be supported by the reflection that though the Cantos led him to history, the history did not lead him back to the Cantos. (Ibid., 53)
If with such categories in mind Mr. Pound wishes to combine his material as nearly as possible by the method of free association exclusively, it is fair to assume, leaving aside as obvious the questions of interest and ultimate cogency, that each such association should either contain, like the characters in a novel, a satisfying account of its terms, or should be immediately apperceptible to readers in a certain state of cultivation, or should be accompanied by a gloss. With the possible exception of the Malatesta Cantos and the longer translations from Homer and Ovid, Mr. Pound nowhere accounts for his material in the text. The poem, unlike the poems of Homer, Dante, and Milton, is addressed not to the general intelligence of its time, nor to an unusually cultivated class merely, but to a specially educated class alone, a class familiar with exactly the material Mr. Pound uses but does not present. And here the Cantos differ from such works as Joyce's Ulysses, the long poems of Blake, or the poetry of Crashaw, in that it is neither the structural framework and some of the ornament, nor the key to the meaning that is hidden in symbolism, complex allusion, and difficult thought, but the substance of the poem itself. The movement of the reader's mind is thus either from the poem as a unit to the verse as such, or from the poem to the material alluded to. Thus the poem is either lost in the original or becomes an attachment to it: is scholia not poetry.
Yet Mr. Pound must write and his poem must be read as if the poem were of first and only importance. That is where the limits of Mr. Pound's practice of association begin to assert themselves at least in a negative fashion. Those associations which come, not most readily to the ignorant but most keenly to the instructed mind are those which—like the combination of Ovidian myth and Provençal biography—are most susceptible to a complete gloss. The obscurity is so easily cleared up that it no longer seems to exist, and the reader comes away with the feeling that elements in his own mind have been so compounded as to add to his sensibility. For different readers different associations will be similarly successful, not so much because of different degrees of intelligence as because of different quantities of information. When the associations seem only to be a series of apostrophes, juxtapositions, and interpolations it will be the lack of appropriate information in the reader's mind that makes them seem so; and no amount of perspicuous good will can make up for that lack. To repeat: it is not the meaning but the very subject of the thing meant that must be hunted down. This is the positive limitation of Mr. Pound's method. The adequacy of his data to the ends he has in view must often depend on improbable accident. (Ibid., 60-61)
Blackmur on Hart Crane (1935):
IT IS a striking and disheartening fact that the three most ambitious poems of our time should all have failed in similar ways: in composition, in independent objective existence, and in intelligibility of language. The Wasteland, The Cantos, and The Bridge all fail to hang together structurally in the sense that "Prufrock," "Envoi," and "Praise for an Urn"—lesser works in every other respect—do hang together. Each of the three poems required of the reader that he supply from outside the poem, and with the help of clues only, the important, controlling part of what we may loosely call the meaning. And each again deliberately presents passages, lines, phrases, and single words which no amount of outside work can illumine. The fact is striking because, aside from other considerations of magnitude, relevance, and scope, these are not the faults we lay up typically against the great dead. The typical great poet is profoundly rational, integrating, and, excepting minor accidents of incapacity, a master of ultimate verbal clarity. Light, radiance, and wholeness remain the attributes of serious art. And the fact is disheartening because no time could have greater need than our own for rational art. No time certainly could surrender more than ours does daily, with drums beating, to fanatic politics and despotically construed emotions. (Ibid., 121)
Thus Crane fitted himself for the exploitation of the peculiar, the unique, the agonised and the tortured perception, and he developed language-patterns for the essentially incoherent aspects of experience: the aspects in which experience assaults rather than informs the sensibility. Yet, granting his sensibility, with his avowed epic purpose he had done better had he gone to school to Milton and Racine, and, in modern times, to Hardy and Bridges—or even Masefield—for narrative sweep. (Ibid., 128)
Yet, despite the confusion and positive irrationality of Crane's language the general tendency is sound, the aspiration sane. He wanted to write good poetry and his archetype was Dante; that is enough. But in his prose thinking he had the wrong words for his thoughts, as in his poetry he had often the wrong themes for his words. (Ibid., 129)
What judgment flows from these strictures need not impede the appreciation of Crane's insight, observation, and intense, if confused, vision, but ought rather to help determine it. Merely because Crane is imperfect in his kind is no reason to give him up; there is no plethora of perfection, and the imperfect beauty, like life, retains its fascination. And there is about him, too—such were his gifts for the hearts of words, such the vitality of his intelligence—the distraught but exciting splendour of a great failure. (Ibid., 140)
Blackmur on Delmore Schwartz (1939):
Mr. Schwartz has spontaneity, the gift of speech, together with that slant, that deep inclination, towards maturity, which has not yet saved him from that glibness which is lack of subject-matter. We see him resort to the artifice of getting under way, no matter where, and accepting whatever wind or spirit proposes. "Coriolanus and His Mother" is an example; almost avowedly in the prose interludes, where the speaker works himself up into saying something, which by the very process of the working up seems significant or ominous; but also in the verse sections, where the names of Marx, Freud, Aristotle, Beethoven, and so on, people the thoughts and images. It should be observed that a good deal gets done by these artifices; the artifice may become actual like Yeats' artifice of eternity, or it may not; but meanwhile what gets done, though not satisfying, is exacting and exciting. If there is an error in the poet's conduct of affairs it is that he has applied psychological form, which we know is appropriate to drama, to philosophical subject-matter, where the appropriateness is questionable. (One risks that such transposition is appropriate to moral philosophy, which I risk as a poet not as a philosopher, but applied to any other branch will probably produce amorphous substance and inadequate objectivity regardless of the verbal or metrical merit of the medium in which the transposition is made; one can hardly be aware of, and therefore cannot manage, all the forms one is using at one time: a major reason why poetry is so much in passages, and the rest haunted.)
Yet the spontaneity which, extended, corrupts the forms of "Coriolanus" leaving it sound only in sections, is the probable source or at any rate the intimation of order for almost all that is most successful in the book. Spontaneity, the gift of speech, is also the factory of awareness, of recognition, insight, discrimination. If one lets oneself go within the limits of a manageable form (assuming one has enough to let go) there will emerge the dark accidents of the mind's sufficient grace. ("The Poet's Responsibilities", Partisan Review, Spring, 1939, 118-9)
A very few months after the demise of The Hound & Horn, the first issue of a new magazine appeared in New York City, Mosaic, edited by Delmore Schwartz , S. and V. Koch, Alvin Schwartz, and Norman Macleod. The first issue (Nov.-Dec. 1934) included a poem by R.P. Blackmur, "The Bull", and Delmore Schwartz's first two published poems. The second (and only other) issue included a review by R.P. Blackmur of new books by W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Here is "The Bull":
There is a shaking of the chain
as the black mountain turns
rippling with fury and seed-pain
and all that muscle all that weight
rises and visibly burns
until he mount and meet
the anguish and faith of the heifer's heat
and she from precipitous lightning learns
her virgin fate.
As the head strains with dull, lost eye
and half-choking there escapes
the thick rale, the throttled sigh,
the sudden thunder claps
announcing the hot spirt gone home
and the stilled spasm in the womb.
Then if the great neck sag
a slaked moment and he paw the raw ground
there is Europa shrieking in my loins,
her weakness and her terror bound
by the torment the craving the greed
for the hot thunder-seed
already troubling the limp bag
under his groin.
Delmore Schwartz was about to enter graduate studies in Philosophy at Harvard.
To my mind the great Jewish American poet of the twentieth century was Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966). I can remember first being stopped abruptly by these lines—
Calmly we walk through this April's day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn . . .)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(. . . that time is the fire in which we burn.)
—the sense that here was a genuine poet, of a passion and an ineffable quickness in the words, of an evanescence like a cool mountain breeze.
Then there was the personal drama (and the philosophical sexuality) of
The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, disheveling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.
which seemed to express all the jarring confusion of New York, modernism, radio, movies, psychoanalysis, financial and spiritual depression, and an approaching world war.
With the publication of In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (New Directions, 1938), Delmore's was the most auspicious debut of any American poet (with the possible exception of James Agee) since the gradual ascendancy of Allen Tate in the twenties and early thirties. But he seemed to supersede Tate at the time of his appearance, making Tate's near contemporary Hart Crane his true precursor in the line of American poetry. In manner, Schwartz wrote more like Charles Baudelaire, but showed the influence of modernism in the fineness and significant discontinuity of his phrases, formally, and in a brooding regressive narcissism, emotionally. His masters were Joyce and Freud, and his great imaginary rival T.S. Eliot.
Tearing it up as poet and critic in the pages of The Kenyon Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, et al., Delmore burst on the scene like a sky-rocket. With Crane dead, and Eliot in England, Pound safely installed in Europe (at home Stevens and Cummings were maintaining an even keel), and nothing especially challenging them or Joyce, Delmore filled a long vacuum in the development of American poetry, and in doing so filled a very ripe place that had undoubtedly been both unconsciously and naturally reserved for the particular youthful passions, both intellectual and romantic, of his generation, which also, like Crane, had grown up during the heyday of the silent movies, but which had seen them extinguished just as they were discovering poetry. Slightly preceding his great contemporaries Lowell and Berryman in age, Delmore found his poetic fire earlier than they, and in doing so was the first to make the mark of his restless, disquieted generation. He was of that American poetic generation which became inflamed with an interest in poetry during the depression, during the era of the early talking pictures (especially any with James Cagney or Paul Muni), during the ascendancy of Auden, and when modern American criticism was just beginning to get off the ground in The Hound & Horn in a series of essays by R.P. Blackmur (not to mention other works by Pound, Eliot and Joyce), which came as a revelation to Schwartz, Lowell, and Berryman alike. Delmore displayed his devotional intensity when he published the two and only issues of his magazine Mosaic (November 1934-1935) in the wake of the recent demise of The Hound & Horn, publishing works by Blackmur, William Carlos Williams and other Hound & Horn contributors, as well as two poems by himself.
In Delmore's world Henry James and Dostoevsky clashed with Picasso and Mickey Mouse, Bolsheviks warred with Freud and Ulysses, and nothing had a historical right to be untinged by a sense of Harvard philosophy (and indeed Delmore pursued graduate studies in philosophy at Harvard (1935-1937), taught composition at Harvard (1940-1947), found a teaching position for Berryman in the English Department, and for a time shared quarters with Robert Lowell in a house on Ellery Street). His generation was breathlessly athletic amorously, imitating the movies for their escapism, in their trepidation over the immensely dangerous and daunting world situation, and a sense of impending doom.
The very figure of the late 1930s politically hip Jewish intellectual poet, in his idioms, he suffered deeply from mania, paranoia, and finally depression. His great masterpiece, Genesis (New Directions, 1943), an epic verse novel about the coming of age of a Jewish boy in Brooklyn in the twenties and thirties (a loosely disguised version of Delmore himself), was unsuccessful critically and commercially, and remains out of print, unread, and unappreciated. As Delmore once remarked to John Berryman, "No reputation is more than snowfall."
* * *
Delmore entered Harvard in September of 1935, and pursued graduate studies in Philosophy until March of 1937. It was his decision to leave without taking a degree. He studied under Alfred North Whitehead and Ralph Barton Perry, and took courses with Oscar Handlin. His friends were faculty: Whitehead, Harry Wolfson, Harry Levin, David Prall, and F.O. Matthiessen (who in 1935 published his seminal study The Achievement of T.S. Eliot). Delmore also became friendly with Philip Horton, the curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room at the Harvard College Library, who would publish the first biography of Hart Crane in 1937.
While at Harvard Delmore wrote a verse play, "Choosing Company", which was accepted for publication in The New Caravan for 1936. Delmore wrote the editors enthusiastically that he dated his infatuation with poetry from 1927 when he read Hart Crane's "Ave Maria" in the first American Caravan. The New York Times Book Review in a review of the anthology singled the play out for praise, commenting: "It is in a very modern mode." Among Delmore's professors, Prall and Matthiessen praised it.
Here is an extracted lyric passage:
I stand beside myself, and watch the mist
Of early country morning breathing and rising,
As if the graspable yard were dim behind snow.
I close my eyes, and see how near dark is,
Because my longing to make you see the present
Seems a bigger prize than New York City.
I would like to reach the old pictures
Taken as a child. Did you visit the aquarium,
Yearn for the existence of glassed-in fish?
Did you watch the beautiful white horses
Gallop before a temple? Did you save
Smooth pebbles, standing tiptoe on a rock
As a seated sad-eyed dark man watched you?
Delmore's essay "Poetry and Imitation" (Harvard University Archives) won the Bowdoin Prize, 1936, for the best essay submitted by a graduate student in the humanities. In April 1937 some of his best critical writing appeared in a debate about abstract art with art critic Meyer Schapiro in the second number of the Marxist Quarterly.
In the first issue of the Marxist Quarterly, Meyer Schapiro provides ample evidence of the social basis of abstract art. It is difficult to see how the thesis which he opposes, the doctrine that art can be purely formal, can withstand his array of "correlations." But his own doctrine itself suggests very difficult questions, of which Schapiro may be very much aware. When we see him finding a social fact for every pictorial element, no question seems more relevant than this one: How is any social product less expressive of social facts than a work of art? That is to say, would Schapiro be able to see the same social facts in such objects as a pulp novel, a bank and a newspaper? Each of these is itself a work of art in some sense, but on the contrary, we also seem to find them somehow different from works of art "proper". The question concerns the line we draw; how could Schapiro justify the difference, or is it justifiable?
The simple answer might be just this: that an authentic work of art is better expressive and more expressive. It is so precisely because it is the product of a sensitive individual working in a medium which provides a wide range for perceptions and emotions. And again, it might be said that the medium of a great art like painting brings to an explicit surface values and motivations which are disguised in other social products. But here again there are difficulties. One remembers that the artist may be considered a special and complicated soul, not typical of the time. It might seem that the movie, because its appeal is so much more widespread, is much more expressive of the character of society than a picture of Picasso's. Furthermore, the movie may express in broader and clearer outline the social fact in question, especially to one with so keen an historical sense as Schapiro. So far as the explicit surface of good art is concerned, clearly there are many ways of being explicit, some of which are surely more likely in a factory or an automobile. What need, then, is there for the painting? Would Schapiro be unable to find any of his social facts exhibited elsewhere? ("A Note on the Nature of Art", 305)
Imitation, in its most literal sense, would seem to be an irreducible element in the artistic act and the artistic product. We say: How true to life this book is! what insight! his characters are living! and these statements, crude as they are, make clear the imitative truth which is one of the things which we look for and which we find in the work of art. And there is a literal example of the sense in which a work of art is imitative. If one looks in the mirror, and only if one does, one can see what one's face looks like. Just so, the medium acting as a mirror, we can say that we find out what our perceptions, emotions and values look like in the various looking-glasses of paints or tones or words. And just as we can only see our face in the looking-glass, and in no other way, so we may say that some things can only be presented by means of one medium or another. Thus we may say that a work of art can be true and can be one kind of knowledge. What we get as truth in The Divine Comedy is not the doctrinal truth of Thomism, but the way the world looked to a medieval Thomist. Such a notion of the nature of art settles immediately the problem of belief in art: what we get is: what-it-is-to-hold-such-a-belief. (Ibid., 307)
* * *
Now it is possible, and it is important, to distinguish carefully between the expression of a social fact, and, on the other hand, a reaction to social facts which is made in the very act, and by means of, composition. There is a difference, for example, in describing a murder and including in your description the various attitudes, perceptions and judgments of the persons involved, and, on the other hand, in describing the murder in such a way that the values which you, the narrator, hold are focused upon the facts of the description. Both descriptions will contain some element of valuation; but the second one will be a deliberate act of valuation. Thus, to shift to more extreme examples, a burnt matchstick or an automobile will both be expressive of social facts and social values. But a lyric poem or a painting will be expressive of a reacting valuation of social facts and social values. That is why the painting will be more interesting and more significant, as a presentation, than the automobile or the bank. The distinction is one of degree, but there are many degrees, going from the mere reflex of values to be found in an advertising poster, through the more partial and less typical reaction to be found in a newspaper editorial, and ending in the highly special, actively critical valuing, accepting and rejecting of social facts which is to be found in the works of a great painter, and which Schapiro is probably best equipped to describe. (Ibid., 307-8)
Delmore left Harvard in March 1937, choosing not to take a degree, but he was to return in 1940, with his young wife Gertrude Buckman, to take up what was originally a one-year appointment as a Briggs-Copeland instructor in the English department, and was shortly afterwards to faciliate the hiring of John Berryman by the University as a composition instructor (Berryman was to arrive at Harvard in the autumn of 1941). Let us close this brief look at Delmore's graduate years at Harvard with a sonnet on a Harvard theme:
SONNET: THE GHOSTS OF JAMES AND PEIRCE IN HARVARD YARD
The ghosts of James and Peirce in Harvard Yard
At star-pierced midnight, after the chapel bell
(Episcopalian! palian! tingled hard!)
Stare at me now as if they wished me well.
In the waking dream amid the trees which fall,
Bar and bough of shadow, by my shadow crossed,
They have not slept so long and they know all,
Both time's exhaustion and the spirit's cost.
"We studied the radiant sun, the star's pure seed:
Darkness is infinite! The blind can see
Hatred's necessity and love's grave need
Now that the poor are murdered across the sea,
And you are ignorant, who hear the bell;
Ignorant, you walk between heaven and hell."
Robert Lowell was at Harvard as a freshman in the year 1935-1936. He corresponded with Eberhart and Pound, was snubbed by the Advocate, read Eliot and Pound, was snubbed by Robert Frost, was encouraged by James Laughlin IV to read William Carlos Williams, returned from a sordid summer of Pure Art to knock his father in the face when he was confronted about his love for Frank Parker's cousin Anne Dick, was sent to psychiatrist and Fugitive poet Merrill Moore, met Ford Maddox Ford at a party, and fled for Tennessee where he moved in with Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon. And Anne Dick did not appear in The Hound & Horn.
A friend of Lowell and Parker at Harvard was the poet Harry Brown. Here is a poem by Harry Brown, which appeared in Transition in Fall, 1936:
Analogies Over a Range
Renzella, maid in the kitchen, loved
The cook (the one who lacked an eye)
And forgot the wretch in due season.
The Lord's breakfast was crossed with bussing
But he was unaware.
Sweated over the spit, immortally decided
That the affair would end correctly, but
Even the gods feel heat.
In the morning,
The stifling morning, she cooked food,
(Two eggs and some bacon) warmed the coffee
That had gone unfinished the midnight before.
Displeased, we wept for having gorged ourselves.
—Pandemonium of shells, rotting under the sea,
And fishermen sorting lobsters for
Death on the sea and in the morning
Knew us: we agreed and still wept.
—Your mother, your damned mother
Has come down on us, having
Pray God her time is short.
And in the city and in the morning,
People walk as I do, staring to and along
The sacred groves of the city, the park;
Sacred no longer, with the crowded sorrow
Of a summer's day walking slowly through them.
These benches have no point: it has
Been rubbed off by shabby pants
That have sat too long.
Lean toward the ground (tired)
And rustled talk obscures the sound of leaves.
There is no rest for little, wandering feet
When beauty is merged with ugliness and food
That rests uncomfortably.
Loved the cook and died loving
Some one else and her own cooking.
Grunted and wondered what delayed his meat,
Being anxious and heavy for the hunt
And tavern girls at resting places.
—Thus this one, who had known the sea,
Left the park to hear music and be amused by
Others beside his wife.
Is not dead, but tired
From overwork and the heat of the afternoon.
And drunken Dionysius laughs over his cup
As the day fades into darkness
Like the extinguishing of an electric stove.
Harry Brown was making a sensation for himself appearing widely in little magazines of the time, such as Poetry, Smoke, and Voices, and was for a time considered to be very possibly the next big thing in American poetry, though in the end that was not to be. In this poem we see vestiges of a Eurocentric literary awareness tacked on to the youthful side of the mood of the American depression; the poem is in a mode that might be almost perceived as early Beckettian. As we shall see, Harry Brown was soon to take up the editing and publishing of a little magazine, Vice Versa, with another Harvard undergraduate, Dunstan Thompson, after both had left the University (Brown dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year).
Philip Horton, Crane's first biographer, who we have already encountered, was born in Providence, and graduated from Princeton before becoming the curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room in Harvard's Lamont Library, where he served from 1937-1942. During World War Two he served in the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, London, Germany and Paris, and in 1946 he became the first station chief in Paris of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 1935 Philip Horton appeared in the anthology Trial Balances, edited by Ann Winslow (New York: The Macmillan Company), with four poems, followed by an appreciation of Horton's poetry by Stanley J. Kunitz. (In the same volume Marianne Moore afterworded Elizabeth Bishop's first appearance in a book.) Here is "Antiphony for Thursday":
Antiphony for Thursday
Because I can not hope to disremember
Unnecessary tragedy and sad disease,
Because I still am young and can not yet dismember
Expressive parts in premature decrease,
Because I still believe the tears of things increase
The cause of singing, yet can not ease
Unreasonable tears because I can not sing,
What shall I say of Marsyas in the spring
And the latter chorus weeping in despair?
Shall I indicate the antiseptic air,
Declare myself immune
From strong recurrent song and a current moon
Because of analytic incantations?
Because my wine, my Hippocrene,
Is bottled and bicarbonated clean
Against its old intoxication,
Shall I submit to such hygiene and quaint emancipation?
When nervous systems flutter on the scientific line
Shall I despair?
In the springtime shall I wear
Sterilizing clothespins in my hair
Against the fevered wind and contagious brine?
Shall I send my neural patterns to the wash?
O I shall play Apollo—follow after follow
Down the giggling ganglia of spring.
I shall reenact the tragedy, scenario revised
By Aesculapius and the wisest of the wise,
And render variations of the classic suicide.
I shall play Apollo as Hermes disguised,
Since the public approves and the playwrights advise.
I shall hang my nervous system on a pine
In the springtime, in the springtime, and sitting down below
(With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino)
I shall study out its patterns through appropriate pincenez.
I shall say
A thing of beauty is forever
Only the nervous system hung in delicate equilibrium.
In the intramural world I shall see
Neural worms squirming in an interneural dance
(In the springtime, the springtime, the only pretty ring time).
With a glance I shall note
The spring overflowing in vascular ducts,
And the visceral change and flux
Of melancholic livers by the light of the moon
(Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune).
Especially I remark
The foetus of a poem in an uncompleted pattern
And the utter inhibition of the levels of response.
But I wonder, O I wonder, will there ever be a pattern
Quite so intricately small
As the strange wild face on the bathroom tile,
Or the infinite rose on the bedroom wall.
I shall smile, I shall smile sadly and compile
Statistics of the soul in terms of the worm,
Chanting a litany to hail the epiphany:—
"Let not this worm turn."
Although I shall not yet present the farce,
Although I shall not yet commit apostasy,
Rehearse the renegade, and bow
Beneath whatever accolade Caduceus may bestow
To compensate my lost divinity,
I shall no longer try to hypostatize
Of secret chemistry a cosmos for my curious eyes,
Nor shall I wish to sing
Beyond the urgency of early spring.
And though I shall not raise my voice with theirs,
The desolate ghosts of an adolescent dream,
Who can not yet accept the season's change
And the strange face of an unfamiliar age,
Weeping for Marsyas and the earlier theme,
Still I can not rejoice.
Although I realize even now
The remedy renews the old disease in a new disguise
And antiseptics generate contagion,
Although the premonition of a voice
Prevents the positive death of definite choice,
Conserving myself to myself
Beyond the silence and the noise,
Still I must bend a little and succumb,
Conclude the recreative compromise,
And meditate the sad metabolistic sum
Against the mad persuasions of the sun.
Towards the end of the 30s and into the early 40s there peaked an explosion of proprietary faith in modernism among the youngest generation of poets at Harvard and at Yale. This can be seen vibrantly in the creation of two little magazines, roughly paralleling each other chronologically, edited and published by Yale undergraduates, and by recent Harvard undergraduates, respectively, apart from their universities. These were Furioso, edited by James J. Angleton and Reed Whittemore at New Haven (1939-1941; New York: 1943; various locations: 1946-1953), and Vice Versa, edited by two recent undergraduates at Harvard, Dunstan Thompson and Harry Brown (New York: 1940-1942). The spirit of these magazines was defiant, brash, reckless, cocky, and furious. And their tone was drenched with the glamour of youth. Furioso emerged out of the bored staff of the Yale Lit, spearheaded by a visionary poetry impresario, the enigmatic James Jesus Angleton, who arrived at Yale in 1937 from Malvern, studied under Norman Holmes Pearson, corresponded with Pound, Williams, Cummings and MacLeish, and brought Pound and Empson to Yale. A remarkably high proportion of these men—Reed Whittemore, John Pauker, Richard Ellmann, Cord Meyer, Jr.—were to join the OSS when America entered the war, and in some cases continue on with the CIA after the war. Angleton himself was to become the ultimate spymaster, and the first head of counterintelligence in the CIA, where he put Empson's theories of ambiguity to work in the methodologies of counterintelligence. Both magazines published a startlingly profuse array of the finest modern American and British poets of the time. Aside from this astonishing array of poetry, the magazines were notable for their combative, erudite, passionate, playful, and sometimes ferocious editorials and reviews. A characteristic of these young men was their complete absorption in a mood of pre-apocalyptic terror, yearning, and fury, seeing themselves as they did as the last and summating generation and chapter in the freedoms of modernism, which gave them an air of fatalistic authority, and facing the imminent possibility of total destruction. Every moment one breathed was as if it might be the last, and loves and yearnings were savoured as a kind of impossible, devilish hokum. Secrecy was the thing, but spelled out loud. Spring was scattered for them, a bullseye bulldozed.
Here, thanks to Mark Lamoureux, who located these for me at the Beinecke Library, are two poems by Angleton from the Yale Lit:
The tickers stopped
no Luce scare this time but war
and we there waving your flag
and who afraid at the window
the open door
small neat and dime-size
in the side of our head
so give me a smiling woman
soft arms and softer thighs—
and through the glass darkly
a man's woman with champagne-light in her hair
and I'll get her a great coat out of China
and three pearls from Ind
and Manet will hold the lost sun ray in her hair
and we'll rove through cobbled streets
talking of oyster-shells and dawning day
and dreamily walk sans space sans time.
Push in a plug
just a nickel slug,
two bits for five.
Say guy, hear that?
Forwards and backwards
round and round
tapping and beating
so gently felt.
Tough guy, you did it,
you and your
damn little slug.
And here is a thoroughly gorgeous poem by Dunstan Thompson, dedicated to his close friend at Harvard, the poet William Abrahams:
For William Abrahams
Of those whom I have known, the few and fatal friends,
All were ambiguous, deceitful, not to trust:
But like attracts its like, no doubt; and mirrors must
Be faithful to the image that they see. Light bends
Only the spectrum in the glass:
Prime colors are the ones which pass
The less distorted. Friendship ends
In hatred or in love, ambivalence of lust:
Either, like Hamlet, haunted, doting on the least
Reflection of remorse; or else, like Richard, lost
In vanity. The frozen hands
That hold the mirror make demands;
And flexing fingers clutch the vision in a vise.
Each one betrays himself: the ghostly glazer understands
Why he must work in ice.
All friends are false but you are true: the paradox
Is perfect tense in present time, whose parallel
Extends to meeting point; where, more than friends, we fell
Together on the other side of love; where clocks
And mirrors were reversed to show
Ourselves as only we could know;
Where all the doors had secret locks
With double keys; and where the sliding panel, well
Concealed, gave us our exit through the palace wall.
There we have come and gone: twin kings, who roam at will
Behind the court, behind the backs
Of consort queens, behind the racks
On which their favorites lie who told them what to do.
For every cupid with a garland round the throne still lacks
The look I give to you.
The goddess who presided at our birth was first
Of those in fancy clothes fate made us hate to fight:
The Greeks with gifts, good looks, so clever, so polite,
Like lovers quick to charm, disarming, too well versed
In violence to wear weapons while
They take a city for a smile.
By doomed ancestral voices cursed
To wander from the womb, their claws plucked out our sight,
Who nighttime thinking we are followed down the street
By blind men like ourselves, turn round again, and wait,
Only to hear the steps go past
Us standing lonely there, at last
Aware how we have failed; are now the Trojan fool
For all the arty Hellenistic tarts in plaster cast:
The ones who always rule.
We are alone with every sailor lost at sea
Whose drowning is repeated day by day. The sound
Of bells from buoys mourning sunken ships rings round
Us, warning away the launch that journeys you and me
On last Cytherean trips in spring.
There the rocks are where sirens sing
Like nightingales of death. But we,
Hearing excitements, music for the ear, have bound
Our voyage to find its ending where the sterile sand
Spends pearls and coral on a skull. The sailing wind
Is with us now and then: blows high
As halcyon clouds across the sky:
Falls fast to doldrums while the moon is also young,
Untided, half to harvest whole. See how our sirens die
Before their song is sung.
What we have always wanted, never had, the ease,
The fame of athletes, such happy heroes at a game,
Beloved by every likely lad, is not the same
As what we have: these measured methods how to please
An indolent and doubtful boy,
Who plays at darts, breaks for a toy
The sometime valued heart. Why seize
The moment in the garden, on the stair, to blame
Our nameless Eros for his darling? Too little time
Is left for love. When we come back, what welcome home
Will he award our wounded eyes?
What uniform be his disguise
In dreams, when sleeping sentries always march away
Once more to war? Now is our novelty: we may surprise
The faun at end of day.
Make no mistake, my soldier. Listen: bugle calls
Revoke your leisure like a leave, invade your peace
With orders on the run, and, loud as bombs, police
Your life for death. The poet's blood-brick tower falls:
Even his vanity is gone,
Which leaves the loser all alone.
Not private poems, but public brawls
Demand his drumbeat history, the pulse that must increase
Until his heart is ransomed from its jewel. Revise
Your verse. Consider what king's killer did to those
Who wrote their way between the shells
That last delusive time. Farewells
Are folly to our serpent queen. She will not sign
Discharge of conscience for a masterpiece, but, hissing, tells
Failure in every line.
We are the mountaineers who perish on the slopes
Of heaven high and perfect Himalayan peak:
Exhausted by the cold, we can no longer speak
To one another—only signal by the ropes.
Those best before us have, alas,
Plunged through a gentian-blue crevasse:
The snow-blind flaw. Their glacial hopes
Shine as a stream of desperate stars, icebound, and bleak,
That mock their nimbused glory from a frigid lake.
Where we stand now, they stood much farther: climbing like
Legendary guides. But traps
Were waiting for their last collapse:
Inviting visions from the moon world air—misplace
A step to follow, dance to death. They fell, so we, perhaps,
May do as well with grace.
Now noble guests depart for good, wearing our loss
Like flowers. O Damon, decked with asphodel, who moves
Among the shadow dwellers. But he shall hear the hooves
Of unicorns at gallop, see them, coursing, toss
Their fluted horns above the cool
Unpoisoned waters in love's pool,
And, kneeling, lay their heads across
A beatific virgin's breast. The day approves
His passage: sunlight on the secret river gives
Bright benedictions to his boat. Elysian waves
Bear him, the hero, far from us
To join the gods. Illustrious!
No words may worship him. The laurel is not all
That withers at the roots, since we, lamenting him, are thus
Autumnal for his fall.
Armed, say you? Armed, my lord. So, likewise, you and I,
Who with the butchered ghost must stalk the battlements,
Shall watch—cold-comfort guards—how lonely lie the tents
Where strangers sleep together just before they die.
Look where their banners in the air
Are half-staff hung. The cockcrow dare
Of dawn is mourning in the sky.
Our thoughts like bayonets blood time. What precedents
Of passion shall we use to brave the coward? Once
Bombs are as roses, will he kiss the black-heart prince?
Honor, more heavy than the sea,
May overwhelm both you and me
To give no quarter choice at all: gay boys, whom war
Won janizary; youths, who flung away their shields. So we
Are mort à Singapore.
Narcissus, doubled in the melting mirror, smiles
To see himself outfaced by tears, and, sorrowing, hands
His ace of love to harlequin of hearts, who stands
The distant edge of laughter. Time's joker still compiles
Trick score of triumph, trumps the queen
To play his knave of emeralds. Green
Gamester reflects the water guiles
Of palming, reads the gambled cards, and then demands
Another pack to shuffle. But the glass partner bends
The fate five fingers round a saint's stigmata, wounds
By dealing diamonds from his nails.
No marveled metaphor avails
To vantage this beloved impersonator twin,
Whose coronet, crown crystal, qualifies a peer. My voice falls.
In your name poems begin.
In an "Interim Report on the National Poetical Effort" in the fourth number of Furioso (Summer, 1941), Andrews Wanning (then teaching at Yale, soon to be teaching at Harvard) wrote: "No doubt the lag between a demand for a new spirit, the poet's expression of it, and eventual publication is great. Whatever the reason, most of the late volumes seem still to be busy with feelings appropriate to general crisis (what Mr. Empson calls 'the welter of a doubt at night') rather than with a solid plump for any given cause."
A few months later, on October 23, 1941, Delmore Schwartz wrote to R.P. Blackmur (who by then was teaching at Princeton): "the freshmen at Harvard this year are shocking both in thought and in expression; most of the few that I know in Cambridge seem, at least to me, to be in a state of becoming reconciled to their particular kind of stabilized defeat; and I myself wish I were a bird, for then I would go south for the winter."
James Joyce had published Finnegans Wake and Delmore's colleague Harry Levin had published his full-length study of Joyce. John Wheelwright was dead, having been struck down by a car on Beacon Hill in 1940.
The Harvard Advocate in March 1941, in "War Opinion at Harvard: A Psychological Study", had proclaimed: "We know from the Crimson poll on February 13 some of the answers to the last question. 15% of Harvard students wish to dissociate the United States from the European War, at least to the extent represented by the Cash-and-Carry policy. 5% wish to enter the war immediately on the side of Great Britain. But the vast majority wish to extend more aid to Britain—even at the risk of getting into war."
In the December 1941 issue of the Advocate, Gertrude Schwartz (Delmore's wife Gertrude Buckman) wrote:
No one can deny the effects of weather upon man's habits, his ways of life, his architecture, his dress, but Mr. Stewart lets himself be carried away when he blames the plight of the sharecroppers on "a temporary variation in rainfall." We know too, that the history of mankind is inseparable from the history of great environmental changes, but this is apparently insufficiently precise for the author's tastes. In Stewart's head the fancy's bred that "a slight average rise or fall of temperature may topple a throne; a shift in the storm-track can ruin an empire."
It is easy to see why this novel [Storm, George R. Stewart] already shows signs of becoming a moneymaker in defense-minded America. One feels that Mr. Stewart strains every conscientious nerve to make clear how, by a staggering and complicated preparedness, this nation would be able, not only to resist, but also to use to its own advantage, whatever mighty forces could come to plague it. It is perhaps unfair to make this analogy when the author does not, but part of the appeal of this book will, I am certain, stem from this notion, especially since the whole concentration of effort by the engineers and scientists of the book is directed towards keeping uninterrupted all the activities of an industrial society—transportation, communication, above all, "business as usual."
A few years later, the war would be over and it would be a new world. By the late 1940s the Advocate was publishing new Harvard poets such as John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara. Here is "Grandma" by John Ashbery, from the November, 1948, issue of the Harvard Advocate:
Death exposes the raptures of each instrument.
In the waltzing orchestra of the dead
His pulse is tempo, and each lapsing head
Fixed in the flood-tide of his rayed intent.
How they go under and under, forcing
Sayings of the tulip, black-eye susan, bone extending
Lace of arpeggios beyond the deaf ear, anything
Taken as a fugue, and no theme of their choosing.
There is a myth or stereotype which tends to attach to poets emanating from Harvard or Cambridge, and assumes them to be staid or academic. Perhaps from the few pages presented here, the reader will gain some sense that the truth of the case is quite other. It is in fact precisely the poet, more than anyone, who has usually found himself to be problematic and institutionally marginal at Harvard, and who has typically had an unpredictable, unconventional relationship with the university. By all indications the poets must have stood out distinct among the university crowd; several ended up as dropouts at various stages in their Harvard careers. Although his field was journalism, William Randolph Hearst nevertheless fits into this tradition of the Harvard dissident with prototypical splendor. George Santayana, another Harvard poet, wrote of his Harvard Lampoon colleague: "He was little esteemed in the College. The fact that his father was a millionaire and a senator from California gave him an independence that displeased the undergraduate mind, and his long cigars were bad form in the Yard." [*]
By and large, the best of the Harvard poets have been far from either staid or academic. They have been poets, with all the wildness and sensitivity that that implies. What distinguishes them as Harvard poets or near Harvard poets—as often as anything—is a consciousness of the tribulations—fugitive, obscure and various—of those who have existed with them in a continuous tradition: not Harvard's, but poetry's.
* George Santayana. Persons and Places. The Background of My Life. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944, 198. "He not only knew how to secure advertisements, but he presented us with a material sanctum, carpeted, warmed by a stove, and supplied with wooden armchairs and long tables at which all the illustrated comic papers in the world were displayed as exchanges for our little local and puerile 'Lampy'. How easily a little cool impudence can deceive mankind! . . . Two or three times two or three of us may have gone into that new sanctum(for we were also supplied with keys) and looked at those startling comic papers, most of them unintelligible and grossly colored; especially the Vie Parisienne and the other French sheets, so different in prevalent theme from our decent and child-like fun . . . We turned a cold shoulder on Hearst's munificence."(Ibid.)
BEN MAZER's new collection is New Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2013). Other recent collections include Poems (Pen & Anvil, 2010), and January 2008 (Dark Sky Books, 2010). He is the editor of Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press, 2010), Landis Everson's Everything Preserved: Poems 1955-2005 (Graywolf Press, 2006), and the forthcoming Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (The Un-Gyve Press). He completed his doctoral degree under Christopher Ricks and Archie Burnett at the Editorial Institute at Boston University, after studies with Seamus Heaney and William Alfred at Harvard University. For ten years he was a contributing editor to Fulcrum: An Annual of Poetry and Aesthetics. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the Editor of the The Battersea Review.