Spring 1991 • Vol. XIII No. 2 Nonfiction |

Morose Confusion

My title is from the first line of Paul Valéry's beautiful poem "Aurora," which I've been translating; Valéry refers to "la confusion morose qui me sert de sommeil." The confusion I have in mind may be only mildly morose-making, but I have not seen it addressed in any of the numerous discussions, proclamations, and credos of New Formalist practice that have been appearing recently. The confusion concerns what "new" and "formal" actually mean. It may not be possible to define these terms, but we should at least be able to say what they do not mean. To this end, I'll be considering other poets' recent accounts of their understanding and use of form, as handily collected in (among other forums, symposia, and the like) David Lehman's recent anthology Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms. Such sources must, of course, be handled with caution. John Hollander has observed that poets' ex cathedra stories about form range over deliberate, joking, or unconsciously framed evasions in th

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Changeling Sorrows

By Rachel Hadas

My title is from the first line of Paul Valéry's beautiful poem "Aurora," which I've been translating; Valéry refers to "la confusion morose qui me sert de sommeil." The confusion […]

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