April 17, 2011 |
Illuminations Arthur Rimbaud, translated from the French by John Ashbery W.W. Norton: 165 pp., $24.95 This may be the most beautiful book in the world — lighted from within and somehow embodying all forms of literature at the same time. The 44 prose poems of "Illuminations" were Arthur Rimbaud's goodbye to poetry (though he had said goodbye before); they are poised on the brink of a new world. Rimbaud was on his way to Africa to live a life of commerce, to enter the world of buying and selling.
January 21, 2007 |
SAM STANDISH, the narrator of Louis Begley's eighth novel, "Matters of Honor," is a Harvard freshman on his first day there when the book begins; by its end, he's become a successful novelist.
March 20, 2005 |
Nobody but a reviewer will be likely to read John Ashbery's captivating book of bite-size essays on poetry and painting straight through from beginning to end. Some pieces look tastier than others right away ("The Figure in the Carport: Kenward Elmslie," "Larry Rivers Was Dying. He Asked to See Friends," "Further Adventures of Qfwfq, et al.: Italo Calvino," "Brooms and Prisms: Jasper Johns," "Frank O' Hara's Question," etc.). But don't take the bait.
February 25, 1996 |
FABLES AND DISTANCES: New and Selected Essays by John Haines (Graywolf: $24.95; 268 pp.). Haines has definite ideas about things, among them poetry. This is evident not only in the clearly stated opinions of these essays, letters and book reviews but also in the way he talks about himself, for example: "I decided to abandon art and devote my life to poetry."
November 5, 1995
Men duly understand the river of life, misconstruing it, as it widens and its cities grow dark and denser, always farther away. **** And of course that remote denseness suits us, as lambs and clover might have if things had been built to order differently. **** But since I don't understand myself, only segments of myself that misunderstand each other, there's no reason for you to want to, no way you could **** even if we both wanted it. Do those towers even exist?