John Hollander is Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale.

By Nature

As if hopefulness Were a kind of natural Right instead of a Sort of malady Most incident to the mind, We have looked upward And then down again, Looked under, and behind, for Some acknowledgment Of what it is we …

An Old Counting-Game

What’s all this fuss about 1? One? Once you are dead, Eternity’s begun. What do they say about 2? Two? Tomb and its Emptiness are far too few. What’s the real point about 3? Three: The Real, the Unreal, and their dreamer, Me.

By the Sound

Dawn rolled up slowly what the night unwound And gulls shrieked violently just out of sight. In those days I was living by the sound. The silent water heard the light resound From all its wriggling mirrors, as the bright Dawn rolled up slowly …

Footnote to a Desperate Letter

Why rhyme? And why for this most late And serious of texts: have I Not saved such verse to jollify, Upbraid, goad and commemorate? —The tone of what the left hand writes: Not the more deeply-cadenced mode That must abjure the rhymer’s code …

A Corona for Wolfgang

Remembering my dear dead black cat sometimes returns Others to my sight—Christine, her kittens Chatto and Windus (and Fergie), Emmeline and hers, cross Pumpkin, Bertha of the placid gray, and quiet young Eggplant, Flora, Bert, nasty Zoltan, Wolfgang and Ludwig’s sweet Mother Priscilla (out of …

A Walk with You

We ramble along up-hill through the woods, following No path but knowing our direction generally, And letting fall what may we come up against the worn Fact that all this green is second growth—reaches of wall Knee-high keep appearing among low moments of leaf; Clearings, …

An Old Engraving

The one-year-old baby is crawling among skulls,    Eye-sockets handled, rounded cranium Cradled in two fat arms: the hollowness of bone    Makes light of mortality and its weight. An infant hand can move a skull, yet cannot budge    A full head, can sport in the bony …

Sphinx

The major retrospective exhibition of Saul Steinberg’s work at the Whitney Museum which opened in April chronicles a unique artistic development. The volume under review here has been “published in conjunction with” the show, but it is by no means merely an illustrated catalogue of the exhibition, or merely the …

Talkies

Poems are like pictures. But some poems are more like pictures than others. Milton Klonsky’s delightful, provocative, but somewhat confusing book is an annotated anthology of what he calls “pictorial poetry,” mostly in English, from the sixteenth century to the present. By pictorial poems he means very different sorts of …

Deja Vu

It is as if they were part of this struggle for transparency That goes on and on—I mean those moments that transports Of remembering choose for their flabbergasting act: The casual meal in the normal course of ordinaries At which Brenda asks for the ketchup, for …

Two Poems

THE ANGLER’S STORY I let down my long line; it went falling; I pulled; up came A bucket of bad sleep in which tongues were sloshing about Like frogs and dark fish, breaking the surface of silence, the Forgetfulness, with what would have been brightness in any …

Collected Novels

Where does one start? Perhaps here, at the middle Of them all, as now, with Elevenses, that Strange minor afterpiece, a book of partings And mostly written on shipboard in passage Between a new old world and an old new one, Rocking between a fear …

This Is Your Life, John Donne

There are several reasons, I suppose, for writing fictionalized biographies of writers. The most common and most benign is that the well-documented history of a writer’s life and times can easily be melted down and poured into the popular historical-novel mold. Then there is the biographer’s attempt to make coherent …

Dogpatch Revisited

The “superior” or “OK” comic strip, aimed at an audience that might include readers of books also, cannot be very ancient. While I was growing up, there always seemed to be at least one around. (I don’t mean to include Mutt and Jeff, by the way, enshrined among the allusions …

Science Fiction

The distinctions between true science fiction and what is called fantasy literature are zealously guarded even by consumers of the magazines which publish both sorts of material. In general, science fiction appears to be more toughminded, and its aficionados tend to think of the fantasy product as being somehow intellectually …

Making Out

Paul Goodman has become far better known for his prophecies than for his fiction. Some of his brilliant early stories like “The Facts of Life” and “The Break-up of Our Camp” have remained little-known avant-garde classics. Recently, The Empire City drew together some of his more quirky and problematic prose …

Sick Hix in Pix

The “non-book” has been a successful commodity for a long time. It now appears to have become a genre as well. The class of non-books includes the whole range of coloring books, photographs of infants, animals, or Famous Paintings being forced to say things by means of captions or balloons, …