Difficult poetryPosted: February 6, 2012
So-called difficult poetry has become my touchstone lately; poetry by William Empson, who seems a bit akin to Wittgenstein because of his elliptical nature; Wallace Stevens, who many people say is difficult but who seems very open to me; and Philip Larkin, for his lack of brio and his entrapment of the mundane in elegant verse. Larkin’s acceptance by the British people says a lot about the poetry of ideas, such as Stevens’, versus Larkin’s withering honesty about the grinding futility of most people’s lives, that inevitable sense of flatness that replaces the glow of the future, faith, hope and belief while people slide into old age and death. Larkin and Stevens are opposites (except in craft). Larkin leaves you with only a stripped-down self, while Stevens leaves you inside a romance, though it must be self-sustaining. For the difference, see below Larkin and Stevens….
Here is early Larkin from his youth, in The North Ship:
This is the first thing
I have understood:
Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood
Also, see the Stevens excerpt below this….