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This article is taken from PN Review 121, Volume 24 Number 5, May - June 1998.

Reading Day Lewis Albert Gelpi

'READ HIM': the last words of Living in Time, my critical study of C. Day Lewis's poetry, recently published by Oxford University Press. In adapting for my own purposes Pound's injunction to the reader about Eliot, I also used Pound's capital letters to convey my sense of urgency in the present situation. Let me try here to explain my urgency in less insistent, more discursive terms.

Critical winds over the shifting dunes of literary history are constantly levelling peaks and promontories and raising other ones, burying particular writers, genres, movements, periods for the nonce while elevating others to clear view and fresh inspection. In any given cultural moment readers, especially professional readers, are trained to map the given and current topography, but the shrewdest of us try to remain alert to how the changes in the prevailing winds are rearranging the literary topography and requiring a revised map.

During my professional life as critic of modern poetry the bold inventiveness of American poets of this century, especially its nervy, go-for-broke experimentalists, has focused attention away from what was going on in Britain. The innovations of Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens and Stein tended to make the generation of Hardy, Owen and Graves seem rather emotionally tame and formally old-fashioned, to most American observers and even some British observers. Between 1914 and 1918 Britain lost many talented writers on the battlefields of France, and in the post-war scene Yeats was Irish and over fifty, Hardy seemed a ...


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