Randall Jarrell


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

Author Quotes

Christina Stead has a Chinese say, ?Our old age is perhaps life?s decision about us??or, worse, the decision we have made about ourselves without ever realizing we were making it.

Compare the saint who, asked what he would do if he had only an hour to live, replied that he would go on with his game of chess, since it was as much worship as anything else he had ever done.

Consider some of the qualities of typical modernistic poetry: very interesting language, a great emphasis on connotation, "texture"; extreme intensity, forced emotion ? violence; a good deal of obscurity; emphasis on sensation, perceptual nuances; emphasis on details, on the part rather than on the whole; experimental or novel qualities of some sort; a tendency toward external formlessness and internal disorganization ? these are justified, generally, as the disorganization required to express a disorganized age, or, alternatively, as newly discovered and more complex types of organization; an extremely personal style ? refine your singularities; lack of restraint ? all tendencies are forced to their limits; there is a good deal of emphasis on the unconscious, dream structure, the thoroughly subjective; the poet's attitudes are usually anti-scientific, anti-common-sense, anti-public ? he is, essentially, removed; poetry is primarily lyric, intensive ? the few long poems are aggregations of lyric details; poems usually have, not a logical, but the more or less associational style of dramatic monologue; and so on and so on. This complex of qualities is essentially romantic; and the poetry that exhibits it represents the culminating point of romanticism.

Critics disagree about almost every quality of a writer?s work; and when some agree about a quality, they disagree about whether it is to be praised or blamed, nurtured or rooted out. After enough criticism the writer is covered with lipstick and bruises, and the two are surprisingly evenly distributed.

Death and the devil, what are these to him? His being accuses him ? and yet his face is firm in resolution, in absolute persistence; the folds of smiling do for steadiness; the face is its own fate ? a man does what he must ? and the body underneath it says: I am.

Delmore carries such a petty, personally involved, New Yorkish atmosphere around with him it's almost unpleasant for me to see him. He thinks that Schiller and St Paul were just two Partisan Review editors.

Early in his life Mr. [Ezra] Pound met with strong, continued, and unintelligent opposition. If people keep opposing you when you are right, you think them fools; and after a time, right or wrong, you think them fools simply because they oppose you. Similarly, you write true things or good things, and end by thinking things true or good simply because you write them

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.

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.

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