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)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
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)
Next Issue John McAuliffe poems and conversation Charles Dobzynski translated by Marilyn Hacker Maya C. Popa in conversation with Caroline Bird Richard Gwyn With Lowry in Cuernavaca Jane Draycott Four Poems
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

Sisson and the Acerb Florentine Dick Davis

Reading through C. H. Sisson's Collected Essays you do not suspect that he could be a translator of The Divine Comedy: '. . . there is probably something in the nature of poetry which makes it necessary to avoid conscious premeditation . . . one does not know what one wants to discover . . . the poet literally feels his way forward', and elsewhere he writes disparagingly of those who know what their poem will look like before they have written it. I cannot imagine Shakespeare writing his poems as Sisson seems to recommend: he must have known by the time he got to the end of the second line of, say, 'How like a winter hath my absence been' - if not by the caesura of the first line - that he was writing a sonnet and have immediately begun the premeditation that such a process inevitably entails. And writing a sonnet means that quite early on in the process you know in broad outline, if not in detail, how your poem will look - unless it turns into something other than a sonnet, which is always possible. Nor would it be a more 'natural' process to write a sonnet in the sixteenth century than in the twentieth; more fashionable perhaps, but not more natural. No one speaks, or has ever spoken, in rhymed iambic pentameters, which were as artificial - as necessarily premeditated - a mode of discourse under the first Elizabeth as under the second. ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image