The influence of Edmund Spenser across two and a half centuries as traced through 25000 different texts
Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830 is a mammoth database of English poetry and other writings that traces the influence of the great 16th-Century poet Edmund Spenser on English poetry across 250 years. There are roughly 25000 different texts on the site, over 6000 poems from famous classics to obscure ephemera, and further thousands of biographies and commentaries. Since it would take years to read all the material I am happy to say that there is a guide to navigating the database, an overview of its contents, a statistical summary and an essay on tradition and innovation. The immense database, which started life as a pile of index cards, was compiled largely by Virginia Tech Professor David Hill Radcliffe over the course of 17 years.
An insightful piece of poetry criticism by Adam Kirsch encapsulates the work of Charles Bukowski, popular poet with MeFi's and others. Camile Paglia has a go at poetry crit in her latest, Break, Blow, Burn. I read the Kirsch piece because I have a passing familiarity with Bukowski, and if I saw someone reading a volume, I'd have some snap insight into what their interests may be. Though I often judge a reader by their book's cover, I could do this with very few poetry books, and I can't remember seeing anyone with a poetry book, or telling me about a poetry book in a long time. While some of us read for pleasure, we probably aren't reading poetry. The slam poetry movement of a few years ago seems to have lost its media fire. The death of poetry is periodically announced, and others disagree. My casual observation is that many poetry lovers actually write poetry, and are not students of the genre. Poems are short, it's easy to call something a poem, and it may make the writer feel better to write one out. Rarely are they good, and rarer still will they find an audience outside of web communities of other poetry writers. Can vigorous and accessible poetry criticism revive poetry readership? Does anyone who does not write poems read poetry, especially unfamiliar poetry? Will anyone cop to writing it but not reading it? And should we care?
Philip Larkin: Great Poet, Shame About The Man? When is an excess of biography, i.e. high-minded, clumsily-disguised gossip, an impediment to literary appreciation? Nowadays, it seems always. [More inside.]