Saturday, August 25, 2012

From a Commonplace Book

Is William Butler Yeats Number One? A young professor at Columbia, one of the best lecturers on Shakespeare I ever heard and a man whose opinions I took very seriously, once remarked to me that Yeats was “the best poet in English since Shakespeare.” This would mean — going chronologically — that he was better than Donne, Marvell, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, and T. S. Eliot. Today’s critical consensus on 20th-century poets in English looks something like this: Eliot and Yeats, tied for first; Frost second (not prolific enough after his earlier best stuff); Pound, Stevens, and Auden battling for third. (Of these six, four were American, one Irish, and only one English. For years English poets have resented the outsiders’ superiority.)

-- Jeffrey Hart

1 comment:

Holly said...

And it doesn't occur to Jeffrey Hart to acknowledge that everyone on his lists of great poets since Shakespeare and every one of his best poets of the 20th century are all white men? personally I'll take Emily Dickinson over Yeats any day.