Richard Wilbur, back at the end of the 20th century, told Peter Davison, then poetry editor of the Atlantic, “I love Bill Williams’s poems but his critical opinions seem to me to be nonsense. He was forever saying that if you write a sonnet you are making a curtsey to the court of Elizabeth I–”
Well, Dick, in some ways, Bill (WC Williams) was right.
The sonnet, as a form, just has a way of sounding polite and respectful, no matter how many ‘bad words’ you toss in there.
But on the other hand, is this a bad thing?
In a nutshell, this is what went completely wrong with American poetry in the early 20th century—and we still have not recovered.
American poetry split decisively into two camps: and both were dead wrong.
And the fatal error was thinking the choice you had was only between these…
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