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literary gatherings: a schmoozer’s guide November 3, 2009: The literati are like aliens. Some are cute. Some are hostile. All talk funny, and all require diplomatic outreach. (Daniel Nester recently described this phenomenon in his riotous, depressing takedown of the New York poetry scene, "Goodbye to All Them.") I here present the strategies I have observed and developed at literary gatherings, [...] by

Nabokov trundles back up the lane October 30, 2009: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that writers living under rocks are doing unusually well these days. David Foster Wallace’s Pale King, William Styron’s The Suicide Run, Jung’s The Red Book, Kurt Vonnegut’s Look at the Birdie, and several other posthumous publications are appearing in print for the first [...] by

Vendler, vidi, vici October 22, 2009: In his introduction to Something Understood—the recent volume of poems and essays honoring critic Helen Vendler—Stephen Burt notes how her readings of poetry lead her back to the poets themselves. In Vendler’s aesthetics of sympathy, “the effort to understand how a form works as it does, why it moves us, why a poet chose to use it, is [...] by

And how should I begin? October 14, 2009: In the beginning of Paradise Lost, Milton paints and points and dallies, filling eight lines with sorrow and hope and mountains and fruit, disobeying the strictures of English grammar in favor of the more contorted Latinate, including, even, an “or” in line seven that threatens to undermine his progress, such as it is, until, in the [...] by

Poetry is dead! Long live poetry! October 9, 2009: Writers keep writing about the end of writing. The English department is declining. Comparative literature has died. Book reviews? Print journalism? Poetry? There’s just one problem: no one gets into details. I want to know exactly when and why literature, and poetry in particular, will croak.  Will it happen in bed or on the street? [...] by

In memoriam: William Safire, a gem of a wordsmith September 29, 2009: Was William Safire a poet? No. He was a Nixon speechwriter, a conservative pundit, a four-time novelist, and a funny, fastidious observer of English usage. But can we detect his influence, however great or small, on such dextrous manipulators of contemporary verse as Matthea Harvey, Heather McHugh, and Paul Muldoon (among others, [...] by

“The” “age” “of” “genius” September 25, 2009: In a recent Slate article, Ron Rosenbaum explores uses and abuses of the word “genius,” suggesting: Maybe genius has been, if not democratized, more widely and thinly distributed, rather than concentrated in the hands of a precious few…. Maybe we no longer live in the kind of romantic age that created Byron, the template of genius. Or [...] by

Keats lives! (for a while) September 18, 2009: Poor fellow! His was an untoward fate:— 'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle, Should let itself be snuffed out by an Article. —Lord Byron Keats didn’t actually die because of a bad review. But if he had, how would he feel now that Bright Star, Jane Campion’s film about him, is garnering so much positive press? Being [...] by