Randall Jarrell


American Poet, Novelist, Critic, Children's Author, Essayist

Author Quotes

Everybody must have wished at some time that poetry were written by nice ordinary people instead of poets?and, in a better world, it may be; but in this world writers like Constance Carrier are the well oysters that don't have the pearls.

Before the bat could answer, the mockingbird exclaimed angrily: You sound as if there were something wrong with imitating things! Oh no, the bat said. Well then, you sound as if there something wrong with driving them off. It's my territory, isn't it? If you can't drive things off your own territory what can you do? The bat didn't know what to say; after a minute the chipmunk said uneasily, He just meant it's odd to drive them all off and then imitate them so well too. Odd! cried the mockingbird. Odd! If I didn't it really would be odd. Did you ever hear of a mockingbird that didn't? The bat said politely, No indeed. No, it's just what mockingbirds do. That's really why I made up the poem about it--I admire mockingbirds so much, you know. The chipmunk said, He talks about them all the time. A mockingbird's sensitive, said the mockingbird; when he said sensitive his voice went way up and way back down. They get on my nerves. You just don't understand how much they get on my nerves. Sometimes I think if I can't get rid of them I'll go crazy. If they didn't get on your nerves so, maybe you wouldn't be able to imitate them so well, the chipmunk said in a helpful, hopeful voice.

Ezra Pound - idiosyncrasy on a monument.

Both in verse and in prose [Karl] Shapiro loves, partly out of indignation and partly out of sheer mischievousness, to tell the naked truths or half-truths or quarter-truths that will make anybody?s hair stand on end; he is always crying: ?But he hasn?t any clothes on!? about an emperor who is half the time surprisingly well-dressed.

Few poets have made a more interesting rhetoric out of just fooling around: turning things upside down, looking at them from under the sofa, considering them (and their observer) curiously enough to make the reader protest, That were to consider it too curiously.

Bunched upside down, they sleep in air. Their sharp ears, their sharp teeth, their quick sharp faces are dull and slow and mild. All the bright day, as the mother sleeps, she folds her wings about her sleeping child.

First one gets works of art, then criticism of them, then criticism of the criticism, and, finally, a book on The Literary Situation, a book which tells you all about writers, critics, publishing, paperbacked books, the tendencies of the (literary) time, what sells and how much, what writers wear and drink and want, what their wives wear and drink and want, and so on.

And the world said, Child, you will not be missed. You are cheaper than a wrench, your back is a road; your death is a table in a book. You had our wit, our heart was sealed to you: man is the judgment of the world.

And then President Robbins began to speak. After two sentences one realized once more that President Robbins was an extraordinary speaker, a speaker of a?one says an almost extinct school, but how does one say the opposite? a not-yet-evolved school? He did something so logical that it is impossibe that no one else should have thought of it, yet no one has. President Robbins crooned his speeches. His voice not only took you into his confidence, it laid a fire for you and put your slippers by it and then went into the other room to get into something more comfortable. It was a Compromising voice.

And yet somewhere there must be something that's different from everything.

Animals, these beings trapped as I am trapped but not, themselves, the trap, aging, but without knowledge of their age, kept safe here, knowing not of death, for death ? Oh, bars of my own body, open, open! The world goes by my cage and never sees me.

Anyone who has read Yeats?s wonderful Autobiography will remember his Sligo?shabby, shadowed, half country and half sea, full of confused romance, superstition, poverty, eccentricity, unrecognized anachronism, passion and ignorance and the little boy?s misery. Yeats was treated well but was bitterly unhappy; he prayed that he would die, and used often to say to himself: ?When you are grown up, never talk as grown-up people do of the happiness of childhood.?

Art is long, and critics are the insects of a day.

Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself.

As Blake said, there is no competition between true poets.

At night there are no more farmers, no more farms. At night the fields dream, the fields are the forest. The boy stands looking at the fox as if, if he looked long enough ? he looks at it. Or is it the fox is looking at the boy? The trees can't tell the two of them apart.

Auden has gone in the right direction, and a great deal too far.

Auden is able to set up a We (whom he identifies himself with?rejection loves company) in opposition to the enemy They.

Bars of that strange speech in which each sound sets out to seek each other, murders its own father, marries its own mother, and ends as one grand transcendental vowel.

All that I've never thought of?think of me!

Be, as you have been, my happiness; let me sleep beside you, each night, like a spoon.

An author frequently chooses solemn or overwhelming subjects to write about; he is so impressed at writing about Life and Death that he does not notice that he is saying nothing of the slightest importance about either.

An intelligent man said that the world felt Napoleon as a weight, and that when he died it would give a great oof of relief. This is just as true of Byron, or of such Byrons of their days as Kipling and Hemingway: after a generation or two the world is tired of being their pedestal, shakes them of with an oof, and then?hoisting onto its back a new world-figure?feels the penetrating satisfaction of having made a mistake all its own.

An object among dreams, you sit here with your shoes off and curl your legs up under you.

A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry is a standard Oscar Williams production... ...the book has the merit of containing a considerably larger selection of Oscar Williams?s poems than I have seen in any other anthology. There are nine of his poems ? and five of Hardy?s. It takes a lot of courage to like your own poetry almost twice as well as Hardy?s.

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American Poet, Novelist, Critic, Children's Author, Essayist