Skip to main content

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.


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

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…


Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


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.