Laura Quinney

Laura Quinney is the author of Literary Power and the Criteria of Truth and The Poetics of Disappointment: Wordsworth to Ashbery. She teaches at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Louise Glück, the poet laureate of the United States for 2003-2004, belongs to the line of American poets who value fierce lyric compression. This tradition was established by Emily Dickinson and her followers: H.D., Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Bishop. It is a tradition predominantly, though not exclusively, of women poets; the opposing tradition of ornate or discursive amplitude has been...

Everyone who reads Paul Muldoon will be dazzled by his linguistic exuberance. He follows the lead of Pope and Byron, engaging in many of the displays of wit that they engage in, particularly an exotic vocabulary and inventive rhyme. He loves terms of art, slang, botanical names, the names of foodstuffs and fabrics, rare words, proper names and place names. His poems send one joyfully to the...

“Ricks appears to regard poetry as a place of perfection and he resents Bloom for attempting to insinuate into it some of the squalor of ordinary life. The essays are implicitly linked by Ricks’s view of poetry as providing intimacy with the dead, a solace and comfort in our necessary isolation. Allusion does in particular what poetry does in general, intertwining the contemporary voice with the welcome voice of the predecessor.”

Creases and Flecks: Mark Doty

Laura Quinney, 3 October 2002

Mark Doty specialises in ekphrasis. The word once meant the description of a work of visual art within a poem, but has come to mean poetic description more generally. Sometimes Doty describes a work of art (Murano glass, a watercolour by Elizabeth Bishop), sometimes an ordinary object (a second-hand kimono, a crab shell), sometimes a part of the natural world (beaches, horses, dogs),...

Kohl-Rimmed: James Merrill

Laura Quinney, 4 April 2002

This Collected Poems is not a ‘Complete Poetry’. It omits Merrill’s trilogy of book-length poems, The Changing Light at Sandover, as well as a number of uncollected or unpublished poems. The notes are minimal. Merrill died in 1995: the editors of this volume, who are also his literary executors, apparently decided to publish a reader’s edition in short order. I hope it...

Teeth of Mouldy Blue: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Laura Quinney, 21 September 2000

The poems in this volume will not persuade anyone to care for Shelley who does not do so already: they are often bad, sometimes dreadful, juvenile works which Shelley wrote between the ages of 17 and 22. These years, from 1809 to 1814, were the most chaotic of his life; he tried to make his own fate but succeeded chiefly in precipitating a series of disasters. His behaviour alternated between defiance and misgiving. In 1810 Shelley went to Oxford, where he met and beguiled Thomas Jefferson Hogg, and languished over his rejection by his cousin Harriet Grove, who was frightened by the unorthodoxy of his ideas; he was soon sent down for co-authoring, with Hogg, ‘The Necessity of Atheism’ (though he wavered about acknowledging his authorship of the pamphlet); he broke with his family, and fell into a depression; in his loneliness, he persuaded Harriet Westbrook, a pleasant young woman, to elope with him, and then established an unsatisfactory triangulated household with her older sister, Eliza; they wandered about, visiting, among other places, Ireland, where Shelley tried to foment revolution; he fled Harriet and Eliza, partly on the grounds that they were intellectually unsympathetic; he sought a mentor and father substitute in William Godwin, and then alienated him by eloping with his daughter, Mary; he discarded Harriet and their two small children, and in 1816 she drowned herself. His actions were reckless, destructive and poignantly venturesome; they had consequences which darkened his life to the end.‘

While I share C.K. Stead’s admiration for Frank O’Hara, I found his comments on John Ashbery misleading and strange (LRB, 23 April). He dismisses Ashbery as pretentious (‘academic’, I suppose) and obscure. This opinion must result from a superficial reading, for Ashbery is not obscure nor devious nor unmeaning. His poems evoke very subtle ranges of experience, and it is a measure...

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