Some Say Poetry

In a poetry review, a remark on being a student has drawn my attention:

In My Poets, a work of autobiographical criticism with occasional ventriloquial interludes, McLane recalls two “early impasses in reading,” freshman-year encounters with Charles Olson and Frank O’Hara. She writes about not “getting it” but wanting to get it, about a desire to get it that was left wanting by code-breaking and analysis and satisfied by hearing and feeling.

This is from the second half of a “New Books” column by Christine Smallwood, in the Reviews section of Harper’s, July 2017. After quoting Smallwood’s review, I want to say something about learning and creating, in poetry and also in mathematics.

Potted palms with plaster farm animals on hillside behind

Kuzguncuk, 2017.11.05

I read Harper’s on paper, though I may fall behind in doing so. Holding a magazine in one’s hand, one discovers articles that might not have demanded immediate attention on social media. Such surprises have inspired a few of my own essays, most memorable to me being “Thinking and Feeling,” written at the beach after the coup attempt in Turkey of July 15, 2016. But here now is Christine Smallwood.

“A black unidentifiable thing” flits across Maureen N. McLane’s bright new collection of poetry, SOME SAY (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24). “In the otherwise untroubled snow / I saw where I’d turned around,” she writes in “Crux/Fern Park”—“faint gashes the trace in the snow / of the way my mind ran aground.” Then, a little later:

even at 5° below
and only a chickadee

and a black unidentifiable thing
out of the corner of the eye

running through the woods
clearly knew their own going

No roads diverged
no ski trail split

the mind forked itself
and doubled back

and back and back
among the black spruce and tamaracks

McLane, a professor of English at New York University and the author of This Blue, Mz. N: the serial, and My Poets, measures the contours of thought in brief, abruptly enjambed lines and clever rhymes. Her black thing is not a disgusting creepy-crawly; it’s a darting creature, a moving X marking the spot around which the mind circles. McLane has much to think about and has no problem with changing the subject. “Some people / float better in a sea / of continuous partial attention,” she writes in “Real Time.” She speaks directly but circuitously, in a relaxed diction that is learned and unpretentious:

OK you heard the coyotes
and I didn’t.

It is always this—
You this, I that

and a canyon
opening between.

Untitled photograph © Jason Nocito

In her academic life McLane specializes in Romanticism, and here she makes time to dally and drift in the natural world. “Even if I had plenty to do / I would still look at clouds,” she writes in “Confession.” Her poems yo-yo between sexual and intellectual life: A sleeping lover conjures thoughts of Antigone dead, paintings by Velázquez and Balthus, Proust’s Albertine. Speakers wander lonely and wide-eyed, beating back cynicism. “As I was saying, the sun” picks up where the title leaves off:

& the moon and all stars
you can name
are fantastic!

It’s not cool
to be enthusiastic
not chill

to say hey!

There’s a fucking sun
still shining

But Some Say is never naïve, and the author unabashedly enjoys jokes from the seminar room. “Some Say” rewrites Sappho’s “Anactoria Poem,” which, in Richmond Lattimore’s translation, begins:

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen
on the black earth is an array of horsemen; some, men marching;
some would say ships; but I say
she whom one loves best
is the loveliest.

McLane’s poem throws out different theories of the beautiful (“a host of horsemen,” “a horizon of ships under sail”), heaps praise on a lover, pays homage to an airplane, and concludes with a wink at Burke:

Some say beauty
is hanging there at a dank bar
with pretty and sublime
those sad bitches left behind
by the horsemen.

Beauty is slumming it and McLane is ordering another round. Her mix of the humorous and the cerebral is at once exuberant and rinsed with melancholy. She is an amusing complainer too. “A difficult climb / to a beautiful view— / I don’t like it,” begins “Against the Promise of a View”:

I don’t want
to look back
& say ah
that was so
worth it
because even
if it was
it wasn’t.

Sleeping Girl, 1943, by Balthus © Tate, London/Art Resource, New York

In My Poets, a work of autobiographical criticism with occasional ventriloquial interludes, McLane recalls two “early impasses in reading,” freshman-year encounters with Charles Olson and Frank O’Hara. She writes about not “getting it” but wanting to get it, about a desire to get it that was left wanting by code-breaking and analysis and satisfied by hearing and feeling. If her own poetry presents an impasse, it is that of deceptive simplicity. Her poems are so appealing, so agreeable, and, to a reader who shares her set of references, so gettable that one might skim over the surface, start reading for the plot, for the rustle of turning the page. It is possible to be carried so far by McLane—by her knowledge, wit, generosity, and musical ear—that one is carried away. Perhaps only a critic, anxious to do the helpful work of intermediation, would think that a bad thing. I’m not sure McLane requires our services. Her vistas are democratic but unmonumental. She casts spells, not iron. “To make / no more things / but songs / anyone could sing,” concludes “Meditation After Berlin.” “To tune precisely / every string / and go without fear / of the simple or complex thing.”

The book ends with an envoi titled “Eclipse.” It reads, in its entirety: “I don’t trust myself / not to look.” Is McLane staring at the sun or the moon? And what kind of witness is she? She is patient but hardly neutral. Her body is always a little in the way. “First I flushed out the turkeys / then I startled the bird,” she writes in “Aversion”: “Nothing / did not flee.” McLane’s intelligence is just as quivering, and always shifting shape—a black unidentifiable thing at the corner of one’s vision.

Thus writes Christine Smallwood about Maureen McLane. The first half of Smallwood’s column is a review of Marie NDiaye, My Heart Hemmed In (Two Lines Press, $14.95). The novel sounds interesting, and I could quote Smallwood’s review of it, as easily I have quoted her review of Some Say. However, Smallwood’s quotations of McLane may stand alone as illustrations of what this poet can do. Smallwood quotes NDiaye too; but one does not read a novel, merely for isolated passages like that. One may so read poetry.

Selected Poems of Robert Frost

I may not know how to read a poet’s whole book of poems. I mean a book not just of poetry, like one of Homer’s epics, but of poems in the modern sense. These usually fit on a page, and they can be published individually in magazines. I possess a few books of modern poems, but I may have given them no more than a desultory reading. In fact I had forgotten about most these books when I set out on this essay.

In eighth grade, we were told to read Selected Poems of Robert Frost (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963). Frost himself had made the selection. Each of us students was to pick a poem for explication in class. We were warned not to pick one from the beginning. I did anyway. It was the sonnet called “Into My Own”:

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

I was captivated by the first quatrain, which ended with page 5 of the book; the rest of the poem was on the next page.

We may infer from Smallwood’s review that McLane alludes to Frost’s “Road Not Taken,” which begins, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” We have seen that McLane writes, “No roads diverged / no ski trail split.” The photograph by Jason Nocito illustrates this. (Nocito’s homepage is loaded with interesting photographs.)

If one thinks of Frost, and roads, and snow, one may think also of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” whose final stanza reads:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
[repeat last line].

In the Harper’s issue where Smallwood’s review appears, this is followed by “Getting In and Out: Who owns black pain?” Zadie Smith begins this essay (after an epigraph by Langston Hughes) by describing an early scene of the movie called Get Out:

We’re upstate, viewing the forest from a passing car. Trees upon trees, lovely, dark and deep. There are no people to be seen in this wood—but you get the feeling that somebody’s in there somewhere.

Smith presently confirms the allusion to Frost by saying,

There are those who think of Frostian woods as the pastoral, as America the Beautiful, and others who see summer in the city as, likewise, beautiful and American …

One still needs some education, just to recognize that Smith is not talking about Frosty the Snowman.

As a provider of education in mathematics, I want my students to learn their power and their right to decide what is true. This right comes with an obligation to seek harmony with those who disagree. In mathematics, this harmony must actually be agreement. Such agreement is reached neither by resignation nor by submission, but by cooperation. Is literature any different? In tenth-grade English, I asked the purpose of our class, and I have always appreciated the teacher’s answer: to allow us to find something that we enjoyed reading. One might elaborate by observing that still, like mathematics, English is shared. One cannot well know what one likes, without having learned what others have liked. What a writer has liked will end up in her own work.

People seem to enjoy sharing something with others. This may be support of a football team, whose fans recognize one another by the colors on a jacket or scarf. (I have been asked in Turkey which team I support; the expected answer is one of the three Istanbul teams.) Encouraged by the President of the United States who was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, some persons revel in sharing the skin color called white. If they were well-read enough to recognize the description, “lovely, dark and deep,” then they would share this recognition, even with somebody whose mother “is as black as the ace of spades, as the British used to say”; who herself is “what the French still call café au lait”; and whose children are “sort of yellowy.” This is Zadie Smith.

Harper’s July 2017

By the account of Christine Smallwood, Maureen McLane was piqued, as a college freshman, by a desire to get poetry, in a non-academic way. Lucy Grealy’s autobiography likewise suggests some frustration with the school approach to poetry:

When school started again, my ninth-grade English class began reading poetry. Our first assignment was Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz.” I read it dutifully the night before class and recognized in the image of the father’s dirty hand and the boy’s dizzying bewilderment something beautiful and important, something that vaguely had to do with my own family. And as I recognized myself, I also realized the precision of language; I knew that the poem could not have been written in any other way except exactly as it had been. The poem’s power over me came from the author’s unassailable ability to say what felt so right and true. I think I already understood that beauty was somehow related to mystery, but for the first time I saw that mystery was not just a cause but a natural result of beauty. I tried to say all this in class the next day, but my teacher wanted us to talk about whether or not the boy loved his father. As we spent the forty minutes debating along those lines, what I knew about my love for my own father seemed to grow only more distant and closed off.

In “Ahtamar Island,” I mentioned Grealy and her observation, “we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things.” Intending to pursue medical school, she entered Sarah Lawrence College. Encouraged by her mother, she signed up for a writing workshop, but only a poetry-writing workshop; novel-writing seemed like too much work.

Reading and writing poetry brought together everything that had ever been important to me. I could still dwell in the realm of the senses, but now I had a discipline, a form for them. Rather than a way to create my own private life and shun the world, the ability to perceive was now a way to enter the world. Language itself, words and images, could be wrought and shaped into vessels for the truth and beauty I had so long hungered for. Most amazing, one could fail, one could make mistake after mistake and learn from each one.

What kind of mistakes are these? The God of Genesis came to think he had made a mistake in creating humanity. In the chapter of Heart and Mind (Routledge, 2003) called “Creation and Originality,” Mary Midgley suggests that if you are really going to be an atheist (as apparently she is), you should not be arrogating to yourself the powers that were formerly ascribed to a deity. Rejecting God means rejecting the notion of such a creative power. We do not create goodness; we can only figure out what is already good. The God of Genesis saw the goodness of the world immediately; for us it may take longer. Midgley is not impressed by R. G. Collingwood’s notion of artistic creation:

He sees the absence of a ‘preconceived end’ as a mark of real art, a mark which distinguishes it from mere craft. But if you really do not know what you are trying to bring about, it is hard to see how you can do it, and harder still to see how you can be called responsible.

In writing “Victor Vasarely,” I listed Midgley along with Collingwood as one of my favorite writers and philophers; but I think Midgley has not well understood Collingwood’s Principles of Art (Oxford, 1938). If you don’t know what you are trying to do, then doing it may indeed be hard. Bringing the present essay into shape is a challenge. I had thought my next blog essay was going to come out of a reading of What Art Is (Yale, 2013), in which (among other things) Arthur Danto works out a definition of art as “embodied meaning.” This idea may not be far from Collingwood’s argument that art is simply language. But I am not writing about this now; there is too much to work out. Meanwhile, the review by Christine Smallwood in Harper’s has turned out to be a hook to hang certain ideas on.

Arthur Danto, What Art Is

Smallwood on McLane has led me for the moment to Grealy, who writes of making mistakes in working language into shape. I do not think these are such mistakes as are made in solving a mathematical equation. It seems that Midgley does so think:

You can find an answer to a problem, even a new problem. The sense in which answers not yet found exist may be odd, but is really necessary. It is very strange to speak of creating an answer. Certainly everybody solving a hard problem needs a strong will. But that means that he [sic] needs sticking power, determination, resolution and independence. Will power alone doesn’t generate answers. Nor can we make a bad answer into a good one simply by willing it to be so.

Mary Midgley, Heart and Mind

If you are given the problem to solve the congruence

8x ≡ 1 (mod 83),

you may not be sure how to proceed, but you can say precisely what it will mean to have found the solution. It will mean having a number whose multiple by 8 exceeds by 1 a multiple of 83. In fact 52 is such a number.

If you have a problem whose solution is a poem, then I think saying in advance what having the solution would mean would mean having the poem already.

Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face

Apparently Lucy Grealy pursued the life of a professional writer; her autography is not about this, but about coming to terms, medically and emotionally, with a facial disfigurement due to cancer of the jaw.

Maureen McLane became an academic: an English professor, as well as a poet. Is it as hard to do poetry, away from the academy, as it is to do mathematics? Apparently Robert Frost did it. He managed eleven weeks as a student at Dartmouth, and two years at Harvard. His grandfather gave him a farm, on condition he work it for ten years. He did this and wrote poetry. Curiously, he also did some schoolteaching, like his mother, for more income. This is according to a note in Frost’s Selected Poems. Introducing this book, Robert Graves writes,

Frost has remarked that being taught poems at school reduces them to the rank of mere information, and that he doubts whether ‘poetic literature’ deserves a place in the educational curriculum. In other words, poetry should be treated as a private matter. To teach it as class-room literature is like reducing love to public philanthropy, or religion to Church history and doctrine.

Of course there is a response to this, and Graves makes it immediately, or part of it:

Nevertheless, most people first become aware of poetry at their schools or colleges; and a few of these, at least, make it a free gift, not a subject for grades.

I first thought the “few of these” were a few of the persons who learn poetry at school. These persons may treat poetry as a gift to themselves, rather than as another thing to study for a grade. This is true, but probably Graves means that some schools offer poetry, without demanding that students earn grades by studying it.

Sylvia Plath, Ariel

I did not read Sylvia Plath at school. She may have been too recent. After posting “Women and Men,” I tried reading Plath’s Ariel and Other Poems. I got through most of it, but ended up figuring I was doing little more than looking at the words. These words may well bear closer inspection. “Love set you going like a fat gold watch”—that’s the first line of the first poem (“Morning Song”) and could be meditated on at length. It is like the narthex of the Hagia Sophia. You step in, and you are in a large space. You step further, and there is more than you realized. “The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry / Took its place among the elements.”

The Balthus painting earlier, “Sleeping Girl,” suggests one of the suicide attempts, or trial runs, that Plath writes of in “Lady Lazarus.” The original selection of the painting must have been caused by Smallwood’s observation,

[McLane’s] poems yo-yo between sexual and intellectual life: A sleeping lover conjures thoughts of Antigone dead, paintings by Velázquez and Balthus, Proust’s Albertine.

Smallwood reports how McLane alludes to Sappho, even in the title of her book, Some Say. In the translation of Thomas Meyer, the relevant verses of the Lesbian poet read,

Some say an army on horseback or foot,
others a navy, but I tell you
the most beautiful thing on earth
is someone you love.

Anyone can understand this
easily enough, imagine a woman
whose beauty has no human equal
think of Helen

who deserted a good husband, sailed
for Troy, her child, her fine parents
completely forgotten once that Kyprian goddess
let love misguide her

I’m reminded now of Anaktoria
so far away

her lovely walk, her fresh bright face
for them I’d give up the spectacle
of Lydia’s chariots, her soldiers marching
fully armed.

When Smallwood quotes from McLane’s own poem “Some say,” apparently she alludes (as she says McLane alludes) to a distinction made by Edmund Burke between the beautiful and the sublime. Another time, I shall have to look at A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. For now I would say that a poem may be about beauty, or sublimity, or anything else; being beautiful would make it not a good poem, but a beloved one. Thus Collingwood, in The Principles of Art (1938), page 38:

If we go back to the Greek, we find that there is no connexion at all between beauty and art. Plato has a lot to say about beauty, in which he is only systematizing what we find implied in the ordinary Greek use of the word. The beauty of anything is, for him, that in it which compels us to admire and desire it: το καλόν is the proper object of ἔρως, ‘love’. The theory of beauty is thus, in Plato, connected not with the theory of poetry or any other art, but primarily with the theory of sexual love, secondly with the theory of morals (as that for the sake of which we act when action is at its highest potency; and Aristotle similarly, of a noble action, says that it is done ‘for beauty’s sake’, τοῦ καλοῦ ἕνεκα), and thirdly with the theory of knowledge, as that which lures us onward in the path of philosophy, the quest of truth. To call a thing beautiful in Greek, whether ordinary or philosophical Greek, is simply to call it admirable or excellent or desirable. A poem or painting may certainly receive the epithet, but only by the same kind of right as a boot or any other simple artifact. The sandals of Hermes, for example, are regularly called beautiful by Homer, not because they are conceived as elegantly designed or decorated, but because they are conceived as jolly good sandals which enable him to fly as well as walk.

A theme of Collingwood’s is, as Midgley observed, that art as such has no specifiable aim. Is this indeed true of contemporary poetry? Robert Graves says it is true of Frost, in the Introduction already quoted:

I agree with Frost that a poem planned beforehand never comes off. Real ones appear unexpectedly, and always at a time when the poet is in a so-called state of grace: which means a clear mind, tense heart, and no worries about fame, money, or other people, but only the excitement of a unique revelation about to be given.

There is a certain similarity of language used to describe recent poets:

  • Smallwood writes of McLane’s “bright new collection of poetry,” saying that the poet “measures the contours of thought … McLane has much to think about and has no problem with changing the subject.”

  • From the Pine Observatory (Kingston upon Hull, Great Britain: Halfacrown, 2000) is “the first, full collection from George Messo. It reveals a poet, carefully observing stillness, yet urging something to stir … The only remedy to a possible sense of bewilderment—will be to read again.”

  • Five Chambered Heart (New York: Persea Books, 1986) is “an oblique prophecy for an endangered world”: “Of Charles Bell’s first book of poems, Galway Kinnell wrote: ‘No other poet of our time has written of the American country and of the tragic ground by which our dignity is renewed, this resilience of spirit, with an equal combination of philosophic intelligence, respect, faith, compassion, and dignity.’ ”

  • Introducing Sublunary (San Francisco: Pennywhistle, 1989), Bell himself writes, “With a poetic grip as athletic is Jorge Aigla’s, it seems no introduction is needed. Would not the browsing reader, stumbling, say, on ‘A Coroner’s Apology I’ (pg 22) be caught in the steel trap of the utterance itself, unbaited by critical or biographical comment—some future reader, probing with Aigla ‘the source without which she was brought / to my discolored loathsome hands’?”

One might think contemporary poetry had a technique, which was to form unusual combinations of adjectives and nouns.

Charles Bell, Five Chambered Heart

For the record, I heard Charles Bell, with his distinctive voice, read some of his poems in the Great Hall of St John’s College in Santa Fe. This was in October, 1986, as I can see from Bell’s inscription in the book that I bought from him. I briefly discussed the event and the poetry in “Bosphorus Sky.”

Some men are currently being called out publicly for harassment and rape. Other men seem to be wondering how they are supposed to talk to a woman without being, as they think, misunderstood. An example would seem to be Douglas Murray, who writes, in an article called, “The consequence of this new sexual counter-revolution? No sex at all,” The Spectator, 4 November 2017,

Sad to say, not all men are pitch-perfect in vocabulary and timing. Some are crass, some incorrigibly so. A BBC journalist recently revealed that in a restaurant some years ago a male colleague had told her: ‘I’m unbelievably sexually attracted to you. I can’t stop thinking about you.’ This was from a colleague twice her age, she said: ‘I had experienced sexism in the workplace before, but not in such an overt way.’ But was that really sexism?

Allow the first journalist not to be “pitch-perfect in vocabulary.” If the man cannot stop thinking about the woman, what is that to her? If the man is really in thrall to the Kyprian goddess, let him at least put his thoughts into writing an epistolary poem, like Charles Bell’s “Encore”:

I swear, if Eve seduced Adam to eat the fruit
(Or Lilith—to whatever gauds she lured him),
It was not by brow or breast or the dear hoarded
Slopes of belly, but by the tongued and breathing flute
Of song. Witness yourself, just old enough to be
My second daughter; and when you sing that song by Schubert,
Your lips parted for the secret savor
Of lost romantic passion, you so confound me,
I forget wives, loves, whores, daughters, granddaughters,
To lie in the falls of your Lydian laughter.
If ever poet-lover plunged
Off the deep end, it is the drowned
Yours forever,

As I recall, Marianne was another resident at an artist’s colony, and the poem appeared on her breakfast plate, the morning after she sang as described.

Jorge H.-Aigla, Sublunary

I was a laboratory assistant for George Aigla (I knew him as George) when he began teaching at St John’s in 1985. He had been a pathologist before that, and the poem of his that Charles Bell commends to our attention reads:

The almost empty bus
rushed me to my workplace
where I knew, from
this morning’s paper
who and what I would encounter.

“The body is that of a well developed …”
and went on describing, starting with the head:
“A hematoma is present …”
the tape recorder memorized what I dictated.

I introduced the speculum gently,
as if trying to compensate
for the brute that strangled her,
as I did the vaginal exam.

The body insides were
so clean, intact, and
alive, that I expected
her to stop me, astounded,
during the procedures.

But it was too late; it is too late
to find again the source that felt,
that moved and suffered,
without which she was brought
to my discolored loathsome hands.

George Messo, From the Pine Observatory

George Messo was living in Turkey and translating some Turkish poets; I encountered his own book in Ankara, in İlhan İlhan Kitabevi, where I also discovered Collingwood’s Idea of History (the first of his I read after The Principles of Art and An Autobiography). Five years ago, into an email discussion of the book by St John’s tutor Eva Brann called The Logos of Heraclitus (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2011), it seems I was moved to introduce one of Messo’s poems, called “Three Notes”; I described it as being “obscure as any Heraclitus fragment”:

Today it’s in the wood-pile
wind exacts a tongue,
hollows the sap-pool.

(The hedge winy with dew
demonstrates the logos of a field system,
a calculus of place-ends and possession.)

Bearing low over limestone strata:
winged demi-gods of the swarthy marsh,
their ululant to spear and stop the heart.

Eva Brann, The Logos of Heraclitus

An article in the Economist from February 15, 2007, is called “A Byzantine Journey,” like the travel book by John Ash that I enjoyed; the article says of Ash, “he may also be the doyen of a new ‘Istanbul School,’ ” and Messo is a member:

Several English-speaking poets are publishing work that, like Mr Ash’s, use the city as a vivid background against which to weave together themes of East and West. There is the easy fluidity of Sidney Wade of Florida, the wry melancholy of Mel Kenne of Texas and the keen eye of Alabama’s late Daniel Pendergrass for the theatre of the streets. James Wilde, a Canadian, writes savagely of war, Edward Foster pens gay odes and George Messo, an Englishman, is working on an epic.

By day, many of these poets teach English in Turkey’s burgeoning private colleges. Some meet regularly, others share a new literary periodical and two recently produced a Turkey supplement for the Atlanta Review. Several translate Turkish verse into English. Turkish respect for poetry goes back to Ottoman times, when, according to Walter Andrews, a translator, “almost everyone, from the ruler to the peasant, from the religious scholar to the rake and drunkard, aspired to be a poet.”

John Ash, A Byzantine Journey

To return finally to Maureen McLane: it is unfortunate that her title Some Say might be read as an allusion to Donald Trump. Jenna Johnson wrote in The Washington Post, June 13, 2016, when some thought the man could not be elected President:

Trump frequently couches his most controversial comments this way, which allows him to share a controversial idea, piece of tabloid gossip or conspiracy theory without technically embracing it. If the comment turns out to be popular, Trump will often drop the distancing qualifier—“people think” or “some say” …

“Some people say [the iran nuclear deal]’s worse than stupidity,” said Trump. But then, some say an army is the most beautiful thing on earth.

I talked about (and photographed) the volume of Sappho in the article “Feyhaman Duran.”

In order to quote Smallwood’s review, I took the text as html (using Control-U to view the source of the webpage) from the Harper’s archive. Editing was minimal:

  1. to make ordinary the large initial letter,
  2. to make block quotations smaller than the surrounding text (probably Harper’s had a style sheet do this),
  3. to surround by thin spaces ( ) the slashes denoting line breaks (in some instances, Harper’s had used a character appearing as a question mark in the emacs editor; in other instances, an ordinary space, though in print the spaces were still thin),
  4. to remove from before instances of McLane’s name a character that appeared as an en-dash in emacs, but did not appear at all in my browser.

I added all links. I centered all displayed poetry, using margin-left:auto; margin-right:auto; display:table; in the style specification. The poetry in the Harper’s review was not centered, but then the width of the surrounding text was a lot less than it is here, at least if you are not using a narrow screen.

5 Trackbacks

  1. By What Philosophy Is « Polytropy on November 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    […] « Some Say Poetry […]

  2. By The Tree of Life « Polytropy on February 12, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    […] bigger picture, and then stepping back again. This is like the pleasure that I described in “Some Say Poetry.” There the pleasure was of stepping in: into a poem of Sylvia Plath, or into the Ayasofya. […]

  3. By Logic of Elliptic Curves « Polytropy on January 6, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    […] What was a correct mathematical argument, when I completed my dissertation, is correct now. This has to do with the universality of mathematics, which I described, though not by that term, in “Some Say Poetry.” […]

  4. By Charles Bell’s Axiomatic Drama « Polytropy on June 21, 2022 at 8:57 am

    […] This poem introduces Mr Bell’s 1986 book of the same name. I talked briefly of Bell’s reading from it in “Bosphorus Sky,” and I said a bit more of Bell as a poet in “Some Say Poetry.” […]

  5. By Mind (Iliad Book XVII) « Polytropy on March 24, 2023 at 3:00 am

    […] incidentally supplies a commentary on the Iliad, and I looked at it, along with other poems, in “Some Say Poetry” in 2017. Here is the 1982 translation of Thomas Meyer, illustrated by Sandra Fisher, whose work […]

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