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Sylvia Plath’s ‘Nick and the Candlestick’ September 25, 2013: Virtuosity, sheer eloquence, in great work has its own meanings: in the best Shakespeare sonnets, as a kind of sexual display or gift to the courted person, with the acrobatic wit amplifying courtship with excellence. In Keats's “Ode to a Nightingale” the verbal richness is like the banner or ceremonial sword of acknowledged mortality, [...] by

Louise Bogan’s ‘Women’ September 18, 2013: Unlike her elders T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore, and unlike her juniors Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, Louise Bogan was born into the working class. Her father was a mill worker. She won admission to Boston's excellent Girl's Latin public school, then college, but she dropped out after her freshman year and married a soldier. The [...] by

Edwin Arlington Robinson’s ‘Eros Turannos’ September 11, 2013: Is “Eros Turannos” by Edwin Arlington Robinson an “overwhelming” work of art? I'd be tempted to say so (and possibly have). I've written about the remarkable form of the poem as a “hyper-ballad” or “ballad to the ballad power.” Edwin Arlington Robinson does something new with one of the most familiar patterns in English, [...] by

Stevie Smith’s ‘Thoughts on the Person from Porlock’ September 4, 2013: On a personal level, affectionate teasing can express love, of course. In some families, benign mockery is a prized, vital form of intimacy. Comedy of the self, comedy of the other person, a characteristic joke, may demonstrate the bonds of deep familiarity as no mere hug could do. (I was moved to hear a friend's account of her father, near [...] by