Cover image for Dreamers of dreams : essays on poets and poetry
Dreamers of dreams : essays on poets and poetry
Simon, John Ivan.
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Publication Information:
Chicago : I.R. Dee, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxi, 265 pages ; 23 cm
On making the masterpiece -- Laura Riding and her traveling circus -- Robed in images : the memoirs of James Merrill -- Partying on Parnassus : the New York school of poets -- Wilde the poet -- "When the ecstatic body grips" -- First-class mail : a wit and his world -- Squaring the circle : Stéphane Mallarmé -- Rimbaud, the anarchic demiurge -- A great, baggy monster: Rilke's "Duino elegies" -- Death fugues : the poems of Paul Celan -- Anna Akhmatova -- Brodsky in retrospect -- On translation -- Traduttore, traditore, or, The tradition of traducing -- Victimized Verlaine.
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PN1271 .S55 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this stimulating collection of new and previously published writings, the celebrated theatre and film critic returns to his first love, poetry. In his criticism over the years, Mr. Simon has consistently paid attention to the books of poets, and has in addition written occasional verse and translated foreign poetry. The poet James Dickey, in his book Sorties, recalls "a good afternoon of human time" he spent with Mr. Simon, talking about poets. "Do you know whom I really like," Mr. Simon asked. Dickey expected the name of a new French poet he hadn't heard of, but Mr. Simon pulled out The Collected Poems of Andrew Young, a rather mild English ecclesiastical poet. Dickey never forgot the avant-garde critic with the surprising taste in poetry. Dreamers of Dreams is less about mild poets, though, and more about great pathfinders and innovators: Rimbaud, Mallarm , Rilke, Eliot, Anna Akhmatova, Paul Celan, and, yes, Oscar Wilde. But it is also about poets nearer to us: Robert Graves, Joseph Brodsky, John Ashbery, and Philip Larkin--not always in admiration. Dreamers of Dreams also includes essays on the best English poem about physical love, on translating poetry, and on some forgotten minor poets whose only sin was accessibility, and who cry out for rediscovery.

Author Notes

John Simon is best known for his theatre and film criticism, which has appeared in New York magazine, the New Criterion, the National Review, Esquire, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications. His other books include The Sheep from the Goats, Singularities, Uneasy Stages, Movies into Film, and Reverse Angle. He lives in New York City

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Although best known as an acerbic and demanding critic of films and theater, Simon is first and foremost a well-armed critic of modern poetry. A life begun as the child of Hungarians in Serbia and continuing through several European countries as well as the U.S. allowed him to acquire many languages, and doctoral study of one of the principal modern poetic genres, the prose poem, required immersion in the French nineteenth-century seedbed of modernism. His remarks on Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Mallarmeare, then, understandably piquant, but what he says about Rilke and Celan, Akhmatova and Brodsky (despite only generally understanding Russian prosody, not the language per se), Eliot and Larkin, and a host of Italians, Serbians, Spaniards, Poles, and Greeks as well as more French, Germans, and Russians in two review-essays is no less fascinating. More than any other American critic, Simon illuminates the difficulties and convincingly blasts the incompetence too often characteristic of translations--and always by making the originals more meaningful, not more seemingly untranslatable. Nor is he less engrossing on the best work of lesser poets Oscar Wilde and E. R. Dodds; the antics of the negligible poet Laura Riding; and the shortcomings of the 1950s New York school poets and their recent chronicler, David Lehman in The Last Avant-Garde (1998). Poetry lovers who don't mind reacquainting themselves with prosodic and rhetorical terms, in particular, may not find a book more to their taste this year. --Ray Olson

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
On Making the Masterpiecep. 3
Laura Riding and Her Traveling Circusp. 12
Robed in Images: The Memoirs of James Merrillp. 22
Partying on Parnassus: The New York School Poetsp. 32
Wilde the Poetp. 46
"When the Ecstatic Body Grips"p. 68
First-class Mail: A Wit and His Worldp. 74
Squaring the Circle: Stephane Mallarmep. 80
Rimbaud, the Anarchic Demiurgep. 103
A Great, Baggy Monster: Rilke's "Duino Elegies"p. 127
Death Fugues: The Poems of Paul Celanp. 143
Anna Akhmatovap. 162
Brodsky in Retrospectp. 180
On Translationp. 194
Traduttore, Traditore, or the Tradition of Traducingp. 197
Victimized Verlainep. 249
Indexp. 257