Against Oblivion: Some Lives of the Twentieth-century Poets by Ian Hamilton

By Ian Hamilton

Ian Hamilton's final ebook, released posthumously in 2002, is a usually tremendous revisiting of the concept that of Samuel Johnson's vintage Lives of the English Poets, in which Hamilton considers forty five deceased poets of the 20 th century, providing his own estimation of what claims they are going to have on posterity and 'against oblivion.' Examples of every poet's verse accompany Hamilton's textual content, making the booklet either a provocative primer and a type of severe anthology.

'The affective energy of this book... lies in its understatement and its figuring out of what we'd care approximately. From a century of Manifestoes and pursuits, Hamilton works as a corrective for the neighborhood and particular... his inspiration of poetry, of what made greatness in poetry, emerges intact from every one measured sentence. His feedback regularly pointed you in the direction of all that he may perhaps locate that used to be precise in a section of writing.' - Tim Adams, Observer

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The principal differentiation, I take it, is due to the long isolation of the Pennsylvanians in a remote region where ancestral superstitions were nurtured & magnified rather than weakened by time. This isolation would perhaps account for the element of cruelty or the sinister which you remark—but which I never heard of before. It is paralleled by certain characteristics of back-country people everywhere. The “hex” anecdote you cite is certainly unique—& all the more impressive because of its un-theatrical homeliness.

Poe was an established poet, albeit somewhat underappreciated (Ralph Waldo Emerson called him “the jingle man” after the publication of “The Bells”), but Lovecraft’s reputation as a poet was almost nonexistent and his poetry was generally panned by critics and scholars alike. I think this began with Lovecraft’s own constant disparaging of his own poetry and Winfield Townley Scott’s conception that “to scare is slim purpose in poetry,” although many great poems deal with comparatively weird themes.

My dear Strauch:— Your letter of the 4th proved exceedingly interesting to me, & I was delighted with all the poems—especially the autumn piece. Of your poetic gifts there can be no question, & I am sure that Allentown must be a notable abode of the Muses if it can produce many genuine rivals! You have the true poet’s sense of symbols & images, & a highly enviable command of the right words & rhythms for their aptest conveyance. I have often tried to express in verse the various moods evoked in me by various phases of beauty, but never get very far in that direction.

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