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The Sense of an ending: Frank Kermode Has Died

Sad news.  Frank Kermode, one of the greatest of English-language literary critics, has died, aged 90.  Kermode, along with A. Alvarez, William Empson, Leavis, Ricks, and a handful of others, managed to make 20th century British criticism - while more elegant and fathomable than its continental counterparts - as interesting, engaged, and vibrant as any body of such work anywhere.  Kermode's writing was brilliant, to be sure, and inspiring, and I found many of his books and essays a significant part of my growing-up process as a writer, poet, reader, and critic.  Especially major, to my mind, was his book The Sense of an Ending.  Also important, for me, and others, of course, were The Romantic Image, Wallace Stevens (the first serious English approach to this American master), and his History and Value, based on the Clarendon lectures.  His more recent work include d last years revisionary take on EM Forster.  English letters has lost one of its signal geniuses, one with an appetite for poetry.

Comments

Jeffrey Side said…
I’m sorry to hear this. I corresponded with him, and spoke a few times with him on the phone, in the mid-90s regarding an interview he was going to do for The Argotist magazine. A true gentleman.
itzik basman said…
I defy anyone to read The Sense of an Ending and give a coherent and concise account of its argument. What a whopper of obscure, recondite, elusive, maddeningly allusive confusion it all is.

Itzik Basman

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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.