PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

The Ark of What Has Been: Elegiac Thoughts on Poetry Rachel Hadas

This essay is an abridgement of a longer piece which appeared in the Associated Writing Programs Chronicle in May 1991. Although the terms of the argument and the works discussed are American, the issues involved, from pressures to expand the 'canon' in the universities to attacks on '(neo) formalist' poetry and its political implications, are hardly unknown across the Atlantic. And perhaps James Merrill's political poems - too little known in the US - may find new readers in the pages of P·N·R.

* * *

RECENTLY FACED with the task of renaming a course whose unappetizing moniker was 'Techniques of English Poetry', I was annoyed to find myself stumped: every new name that came to mind seemed politically incorrect. 'Readings in the Lyric?' Too wispy. 'Great Poems of the Western Tradition?' Too Eurocentric, elitist, exclusivist - I could already hear the cries. Until a happy coincidence led to my reading an article in Harvard Magazine about Helen Vendler's big poetry course, called something like 'Poems and Poets', I didn't much like any of the new names I was able to come up with.

I like the prevailing sense of constraint still less. The strictures that box me in by condemning in advance not just the title of a course but all the assumptions behind that course's contents - what are they, exactly? The mandate isn't precisely for what used to be called relevance. If there's a key word now, it might be ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image