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December 16, 2006


Well, Stevens's poetry is a special case - but it helps to know a tiny bit about him to know that he's really not twee and tootling in "Seascape...". And one might well ask the author to get over himself and his high-school angst and strained syntax if one didn't know that Hopkins was sincere and writing for himself alone. It helps to know that Christopher Smart was locked up when he wrote this.

This stands alone quite well, though a bit of knowledge about the author's concerns adds to the poem. But it's not because of that better than this or this.

It's pretty hard for me to know if I can write (or have written) stuff as good as Hopkins, because well I like my best stuff a lot and he's not my favorite; but what's stopping me if I can is being happily married and earning a living and doing my share of the baby taking-care-of - that and blogging, sadly...

I was thinking of putting a post at TiO about this, but I'll just pass the thought on here. The canon that rf suggests is one that I think 99% of the population would probably be unfamiliar with (this does not say that it doesn't exist or it is a bad thing, mind you) It's not like the grounding the Ancient Greeks had with Homer, Muslims have with the Koran or AmericanS had with the Bible 100 years ago. I actually do think there is a canon for current Americans that consists of tv shows and other entertainment, but it changes at such a rapid pace, that one might not want to call it a canon. We see the bones of a canon stick up from time to time, but it is not the integral structure that we can lean on, it is just the odd phrase or situation.

In _Mansfield Park_, a character reads some Shakespeare to his friends. (Following is approx.) He does it so well that someone remarks it must be one of his favorite plays, but he responds that he hadn't read it before, but as an Englishman he is infused with Shakespeare.

Certainly we don't have a canon in that sense now. Maybe people my age know _The Lord of the Rings_ as well as they would have known _The Iliad_, or _Star Wars_. I think it's only fairly recently though that the question of what the masses are reading vs what poetry readers are reading vs what the poets are reading makes sense.

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