Winter 1956 • Vol. XVIII No. 1 Book ReviewsJanuary 1, 1956 |

Just a Good Poet

Collected Poems, 1955 by Robert Graves. Doubleday. $4.50. The dominant criticism of the day is a criticism which explains things; it seems to have appeared as a response to a few difficult poems, and to have proceeded on the presumption that poems were very difficult matters, or that they would be from now on, or that, if they were not, they could be made so by judicious explanations. The habit of such criticism has produced some odd effects both good and bad, of which the good have perhaps been often enough surveyed. As to the bad: certain sorts of difficulty are taken as signs of excellence, and the explanation of them as preeminently the business of criticism; poetic illiteracy has mightily increased not for one reason alone, no doubt, but this species of criticism has done its share, with the best intentions in the world, toward producing the situation as we have it. The habit of reading poetry seems largely lost, replaced by the school room habit of "analyzing" it; students

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