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This article is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

Two Minds Jason Guriel
What would the critic William Logan make of the other William Logan, the poet who shares his brainpan? This is the sort of Fantasy Bloodsport the Internet likes to think on. Logan ‘commits offenses for which he’d pillory any other poet’, says one website. ‘[If] his critic ever reads his poetry, he’s done’, says another. ‘William Logan once wrote a review of William Logan’s poetry that made William Logan cry’, submits a third.

Even an advocate can’t help but see double. David Barber, dividing Logan in two, predicts that ‘the baleful poet… is bound to outlast the malevolent critic’. But an odd idea has stuck: to strike a poet-critic where it hurts (or to hit his sweet spot), one should aim at someone close to his heart – his inner bard. In other words, Barber takes for granted what Michael Hofmann peels off the underside of the critical consensus on another poet-critic: ‘the callow, unexamined assumption’ that a poet will always prefer his poems to his reviews.

The talking heads should know better. Reflecting on his own reviews, Hofmann says, ‘A lot of the articulacy and the connections and the nerves that might have gone on poems, have gone on these pieces.’ To be sure, critical prose that’s as stylish as Hofmann’s may even be a form of poetry; here’s the music critic Greil Marcus on a collection of writings by his late peer Lester Bangs: ‘Perhaps what this book demands from a reader is a willingness ...


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