A Usable Past: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetry by Paul Mariani

By Paul Mariani

Publication via Mariani, Paul

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I began my work on Williams by doing what I call my "homework book," a commentary on the published criticism that had accumulated around Williams's reputation from his inauspicious beginnings in 1909 until 1973, ten years after his death. What I originally thought would be six months' work stretched into two and a half years and was published by the American Library Association in 1975 as part of a series called The Poet and His Critics. And then began a series of essays on Williams's late poems, including various aspects of his epic, Paterson.

And so I came back with a scheme to do a reading of each of Hopkins's sonnets, from the early undergraduate pieces Hopkins had written as a student at Balliol College, Oxford, to the poem he wrote for Robert Bridges just six weeks before he died at forty-four from typhoid fever. That dissertationsubstantially revised and expandedwas published Page 3 in early 1970 as my first book, with the exact, if somewhat lengthy title, A Commentary on the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Over the next seven years I continued to publish on Hopkins, all the pieces being commissioned by magazines or as essays in various collections.

The Tomlinson essay itself originally grew out of that impetus, and the Creeley essay, originally commissioned for a special number of Boundary 2 devoted to Creeley, is a continuation of that interest. Moreover, I have known Bob Creeley personally now for ten years and have come to admire his honesty, his toughness, his hard critical intelligence, his gift for conversation, his humanity, his unswerving dedication to the craft, Page 10 his unique signature as a poet. " Creeley himself was just starting out as a writer when he began corresponding with Williams in the early 1950s and For Love, his first volume of poems, would not be published until three years before Williams's death.

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