Saturday, February 26, 2005

Modern Major Formalists

The reputation of Richard Wilbur rests firmly on his formal mastery. He is no doubt the very model of a modern major formalist. His language is sumptuous and his classical allusions are always ripe and omnipresent. Even his themes, though tinged with shadows here and there, always look towards an integration of brightness, a byproduct of his religious temperament. All of this is good. I heartily endorse a spiritual poetics and drink deeply from his well of meter and form. But he is a reactionary in the true definition of the word, and his work looks more to the past than to the present. His voice is not just elusive; it’s vague at best, chameleon more than not. If there is a formal poet of the mid to late 20th century that deserves our true devotion, I am afraid it is not Wilbur, despite his skills at craft. But it might be Weldon Kees.

1 comment:

David Koehn said...

I have closely following your discourse on Wilbur. While I think I disagree with you. (I'm not sure yet). I have enjoyed watching you arrest and then re-ionvigorate your thinking.