Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Michael Hudson
Dear Editor,

Clive James's piece, "Little Low Heavens" [September 2008], is one of the smartest, truest things I've read about poetry in a long while. It brings up a very important fact that haunts all poets: no matter how laden they are with the tangible signs of a successful career in the arts, there is more than a fair chance that nothing they have written will endure. Or, as James so terrifyingly puts it: "Any poem that does not just slide past us like all those thousands of others usually has an ignition point for our attention."

Although I am not sure it was the main point of his rather discursive piece (I mean this as a compliment), James recognizes that the inevitable winnowing of poets that always takes place is happening now. And after the folderol of prizes and reputations recedes into the past, all that remains, and all that really matters, are a few poems, or even a few moments in a few poems: the "lightning strike of an idea that goes beyond thought and perception and into the area of metaphorical transformation that a poem demands." We could all use a reminder of this, and James does it here masterfully.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Originally Published: December 30, 2008

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