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September 21, 2008


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Thank you for this extraordinary post: the preview of Kirsch's fascinating analysis, the image that gives you your Yoricky title, and most of all your eloquence on the subject of Kathryn Starbuck's poem.

Kirsch's application of economic principles to the question of poetry and ambition is indeed "chastening" and makes sense of a literary world that lives under the sign of Hobbes. There are a lot of sinners out there, but it would be nice to think that there are other alternatives besides saintliness.

I echo David - thank you for this post. I am going to share it with my students.

I'm no philosopher, so please forgive this bluntness, and to be fair I haven't read the entire essay, but I think Kirsch's analysis, as presented here, is cynical baloney. Recognition can be nice, but I don't know a single poet who would stop writing poems if told, "you will never be famous; you will never make a dime; you will never even be published." They might be bummed out and angry, but they wouldn't stop writing poems.

Kirsch is right in that literary business is depressing and enervating and difficult, but literary business is a very different thing than the actual writing of literature. The example that springs immediately to mind is Miklos Radnoti, the Hungarian poet who wrote poems in a secret notebook during what he had to have known was a death-march. He didn't even know if his poems would even be read, much less published. He was writing to say, "I was here" in the face of those who sought to erase his existence; he was indeed trying, as you so eloquently put it, "to keep something alive that was supposed to have vanished forever."

While I don't always agree with Kirsch, I always enjoy reading him because I can practically hear a fine and curious mind at work. Looking forward to the essays. Thanks.

The poetry is very cool. I think the picture alone is amazing.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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