Essays

Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays

By Michael Hofmann

An experience with a roving genius of literary criticism

Michael Hofmann―poet, translator, and highbrow vagabond―has validated himself as one of many keenest critics of up to date literature. accurately nestled among the covers of Where have you ever Been?, he bargains a hand to steer us and an encouraging whisper in our ear, best us on a visit via what to learn, easy methods to imagine, and why to love. And whereas those essays endure sharp insights that might aid us revisit writers with a clean eye, also they are a narrative of affection among a reader and his precious books.
within the thirty essays amassed the following, Hofmann brings his signature wit and sustained serious mastery to a poetic, penetrating, and candid dialogue of the writers and artists of the final hundred years. listed here are the essential poets with out which modern poetry will be unimaginable―Elizabeth Bishop, "the poets' poets' poet," the "ghostly ability" of Robert Lowell, and the fellow he calls the best English poet in view that Shakespeare, Ted Hughes. yet he additionally illumines the melancholy of John Berryman and the antics of poetry's bogeyman, Frederick Seidel.
In essays on artwork which are themselves artistic endeavors, Hofmann's agile and significant brain explores a panoply of matters from the mastery of translation to the simplest day activity for a poet. What those assorted gemstones proportion are the critic's insatiable interest and nice attraction. Where have you ever Been? is an unmissable trip with literature's such a lot impossible to resist flaneur.

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He had the key sorrow one may possibly search for in a Spurs fan and serial founder and editor of little magazines. The cowboyishly skewed mouth—the note “hard-bitten” could have been invented for it—passing sotto voce ten-ton judgments used to be even more commonplace to me from Craig Raine’s talented and by surprise committed imitations of him than from the genuine factor. actually, events apart, I observed him only a few instances, even though those, oddly, appear as if they can provide a biography. An ill-advised lunch at my instigation within the early ’80s, simply after his lifetime of Robert Lowell seemed, at which Ian drank greater than he spoke, and that i hadn’t but realized to drink (“those played-with-but-uneaten lunches for which he used to be well-known” within the phrases of his good friend, the novelist Dan Jacobson; “You by no means ate / simply driven issues around and around your plate / until you may decently remove darkness from back” in these of Alan Jenkins’s poem “Rotisserie [The Wait]”—but how was once I to understand that? ). Then there has been the time he popped up in a playground in Queens Park, which used to be the inaccurate suburb, with a daughter I had no concept he had—he was once imagined to be away in Wimbledon, and with sons—growling anything approximately Catherine (innocently pulling at a bottle of water) having inherited her father’s thirst. I observed him all over again going into the publisher’s to fetch a few packing containers of items, donning a camouflage jacket, and with a station wagon idling outdoors, within the throes of relocating residence and altering lives. Later, there has been a bunch studying in Manchester, while an unbuttoned United having received the eu Cup have been paraded in the course of the urban on an open-topped municipal bus; we made our method via millions of onlookers to learn to a disillusioned bookstall supervisor and a dozen nutcases—sorry, poetry fans. I observed Ian the following morning, already ensconced within the London teach, and felt some distance too shy to affix him, but if I opened my newspaper, his identify leaped out to greet me. It used to be his contribution to a series—this speaks volumes a couple of convinced certainly idealistic streak in English cultural philistinism—on “overrated books. ” Ian’s selected aim was once The Waste Land. He was once possessed of extra authority—more literary authority, i assume I may still specify—than a person I’ve ever met, and it was once, within the phrases of the social anthropologist Mary Douglas, own now not positional authority. In different phrases, it didn’t subject that he not sat on the head of the desk; now not fronted e-book courses at the BBC; not had commissions to dole out, approval to bestow or deny within the columns of The Observer or the TLS; that his magazines The evaluation and the recent evaluation edited (partly to prevent collectors) from a pub around the street referred to as the Pillars of Hercules had lengthy considering the fact that been wound up—you nonetheless wouldn’t are looking to move him, or perhaps disagree with him. now not simply because he was once a—literary—gangster yet, particularly, the other, as a result of the advantage and delicacy of his poems. within the lengthy and engaging interview that Dan Jacobson performed with Hamilton presently earlier than his loss of life (Between the traces, 2002), it's extraordinary how frequently he makes use of a phantom or gangland first-person plural; it’s constantly “we weren’t speculated to be telling humans approximately fads” or “so we suggestion sure.

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