Jonathan Galassi’s most recent book, the novel Muse, will be ­published in paperback in June. (June 2016)

The Troubling Genius of Delmore

Delmore Schwartz, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1940s
The myth of Delmore Schwartz is a variant on the myth of the visionary modern poet, at once preternaturally gifted yet unable to live in the world. This Romantic image starts, perhaps, with Thomas Chatterton, the eighteenth-century prodigy from Bristol who wrote counterfeit medieval texts and committed suicide at seventeen.

Updike’s Violin

John Updike, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, 1985
John Updike’s first published book was a collection of poems. The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures, primarily a collection of light verse, was published by Cass Canfield at Harper and Brothers in 1958, when the author was twenty-six. (Harper rejected a novel manuscript, Home, at more or less the …

Greetings, Friends!

The tree is down, the star is stored, the groaning at the groaning board is over: no more rancid nog or smoky, still-green Yule log. Out, false cheer and de trop expense! It’s time we showed some New Year’s sense. Last year’s booty’s shook …

Speed in Life and Death

Umberto Boccioni: Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913 (cast 1949)
The Italian Futurists were dedicated to motion—but not the meditative pace that Lloyd Wright’s ramp imposes on visitors to the Guggenheim’s exhibition this summer; more the revving of a Lamborghini, or better yet a Ducati motorcycle, relentlessly powering up, up, up and away, its engine knocking, spewing exhaust, mowing down everything in its path.

The Dreams of Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino, New York City, 1983
Calvino complained to a friend in 1970 about “working in fits and starts, fragmentarily” while dreaming “of composing encyclopaedic works, universal histories, theogonies, maps of the terraqueous globe and of the firmament, utopias…”—the very beguiling confections, half potted science or philosophy and half fantasy, that are the glories of Cosmicomics/ and Invisible Cities. These fictions are examples of what for Calvino became “the only kind of literature that is possible today: a literature that is both critical and creative.”

The Great Montale in English

Eugenio Montale, 1970
Eugenio Montale—born in Genoa in 1896, died in Milan, 1981—is one of the twentieth-century Europeans who has spoken most meaningfully to American and British poets. His first published poem, written when he was twenty, already exhibits distinctive characteristics of his work: strict rhythm, dissonant music, richness of allusion, and focused, …

Tom in Rome

Bolder than Antonio Canova outdoing the Apollo Belvedere, you demolish every Red Guide reader’s half-baked callow notion of an adequate response to what we see: forensically investigating Daphne, how she limb by limb becomes a tree, you scant the art, stern sage who’s …

After a Flight

There were birches, stands of them, to hide the hospital where someone suffering from too much love of life was bored hanging between everything and nothing. A cricket chanted, perfectly in key with the therapeutic plan, and the cuckoo you’d already heard more …

Happenings

Forgiveness happens. Every now and then the Canaan rainbow fills the valley up. Hailstorms shatter August. Power fails. A neighbor moves, or dies. A window falls. Sun cuts through haze, and days are slowly shorter; the road is dappled under the old tree; …

Little Testament

This, which flickers at night in the skullcap of my thought, mother-of-pearl trace of a snail or mica of crushed glass, isn’t church or workshop light fed by red cleric or black. All I can leave you is this rainbow in evidence …

Wind and Flags

The gust that lifted the bitter scent of the sea to the valley’s twists and turns and struck you, ruffling your hair, brief tangle on the pale sky; the squall that glued your dress to you and shaped you swiftly in its image, …

A Poem by Eugenio Montale

Your hand was trying the keyboard, your eyes were following the impossible signs on the sheet: and every chord was broken, like a voice in grief. I noticed everything around turn tender, seeing you helpless, blocked, unsure in the language that was most …

Two Poems by Eugenio Montale

to C. I have such faith in you that it will last (this is the foolishness I told you once) until a flash from beyond destroys the immense waste heap in which we live. We’ll find ourselves then in I don’t know what …