Shades of Authority: The Poetry of Lowell, Hill and Heaney by Stephen James

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By Stephen James

What's the dating among poetry and tool?

Should poetry be thought of a method of authority or an impotent medium?

And why is it that the fashionable poets most typically considered as authoritative are accurately these whose works strive against with a feeling of creative inadequacy?

Such questions lie on the center of this examine, prompting clean insights into 3 of crucial poets of modern a long time: Robert Lowell, Geoffrey Hill and Seamus Heaney. via attentive shut studying and the tracing of dominant motifs in each one writer’s works, James exhibits how their responsiveness to issues of political and cultural import lends weight to the assumption of poetry as authoritative utterance, as a medium for conversing of and to the area in a persuasive, memorable demeanour.

And but, as James demonstrates, every one poet is exercised through an knowledge of his personal cultural marginality, even via a feeling of the constraints and liabilities of language itself.

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Extra resources for Shades of Authority: The Poetry of Lowell, Hill and Heaney (Liverpool English Texts and Studies, Volume 50)

Sample text

22 The messages transmitted by Lowell’s procedures are mixed: he wants to record and make public his ‘imperfect’ work in progress while also indicating that he is striving to compose poems that, like the old belongings in 91 Revere Street, ‘because finished, […] are endurable and perfect’. 23 There is something latently megalomaniacal about Lowell’s completist fantasy for the Notebook–History project. The compulsively acquisitive nature of a poetic endeavour in which even the accidental and ‘throwaway’ (NB 263) are accommodated into verse, the conception of Notebook as ‘one poem, […] not a pile or sequence of related material’ (262), and, in particular, Lowell’s aspiration to produce a work of ‘History’ in verse form, with a chronology of events running from Creation to the present, all indicate an ‘unusual lust’ to compel the world’s heterogeneity into unity and order.

After all, over-energetic advocacy can produce its own kind of enervating effects. The enduring fascination of Lowell’s verse requires no special pleading. 1 A litany of notorious despots (both historical and mythological) runs like a dark vein through his poetry. 2 While he does not glamourize their violent exploits, his imaginative engagement with the thoughts and deeds of tyrannical personalities evinces a kind of appalled admiration, complicated at times by a degree of sympathy for their self-destructive tendencies.

Both poems move towards a sententious note of public blessing (‘peace to our children when they fall’, ‘Health to those who held’), yet both are keen to ‘break loose’ from the demands of public accountability. What ‘Waking Early Sunday Morning’ most significantly has in common with ‘The March’ is a presiding spirit of negative self-awareness. This trait can be seen when, for example, Lowell expresses a sense of personal identification with President Lyndon Johnson. Each spends his proverbial day of rest hounded by the same compound of impulses – indolence, bravado, libido, self-absorption and self-disgust: O to break loose.

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