An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Richard Poirier: 1925-2009

Richard Poirier, one of the nation’s best and most interesting literary critics died this past week at the age of 83. In the New York Times’ “Week in Review,” Alexander Star has written an appreciation, “Richard Poirier: A Man of Good Reading.” An excerpt from the article:

“Mr. Poirier steadfastly combined cultural authority and idiosyncrasy. He relished being a man apart. Writing in Partisan Review, the ‘little magazine’ that defined highbrow culture for generations of New York intellectuals, Mr. Poirier caused a minor scandal when he compared the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ album to the work of Alexander Pope. No less a figure than Saul Bellow later complained that Mr. Poirier had made the magazine ‘look like a butcher’s showcase, shining with pink hairless pigginess, and adorned with figures of hand-carved suet which represent the very latest in art, literature and politics.’

“As an English professor, too, Mr. Poirier was often at odds with his colleagues, whom he mockingly compared to bureaucrats: ‘Criticism in the spirit of the F.D.A. is intended to reduce your consumption of certain of the golden oldies, to reveal consumer fraud in books that for these many years have had a reputation for supplying hard-to-get nutrients.’ In the ‘canon wars’ that raged on campuses and beyond in the 1980s—with multiculturalists feuding with traditionalists—Mr. Poirier faulted both sides. He objected to the belief that literature preserved the highest values of our civilization, but also to the opposed idea that it was deeply complicit with the worst.”

[The College Hill Review editor’s blog also presents a number of web links to Richard Poirier’s work or related items.]

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