By Paul Mariani
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Williams remembered because literature mattered so much to him. It really did matter how a poet put his or her language on the line. In the long empyrean view, as we turn the pages of our Nortons or other anthologies of American poetry and see Stevens and Williams and Pound and Eliot and Hart Crane enthroned side by side like larger-than-life Byzantine presences, none of this much matters. But in re-creating Williams's life, I learned early that all this of course does matter. It mattered because there was a political and social judgment implicit in telling the world that a poem could be made of anything.
And while "Fretwork in Stone Tracery" is a review of two volumes of Montague's poetry published in the mid to late 1970s, I have continued my interest in Montague with a monograph on the poet written for the Dictionary of Literary Biography that coversinsofar as an essay can do such a thingMontague's entire career to date. The man continues to write eloquently and with a rare empathy for his country and its plangent, earthly music. Just now American critics seem preoccupied with another Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, eleven years Montague's junior, and Heaney is an extraordinarily gifted poet and the one with whom I feel the closest personal affinity.
Let me add, so that I am not misunderstood on this point, that I have little patience with those biographers who seem to be out to reveal the little or big secrets of their subjects for the pleasure of the scandal itself, without taking the necessary responsibility of placing those shortcomings in their correct perspective. There are biographers, regrettably, who show no real understanding of their subjects, who do not have the ability to show us the underlying strengths of a figure, and so set out to debunk (in a way Lytton Strachey himself never did) by holding up the shabby truths they have discovered like so much unwashed underwear.
A Usable Past: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetry by Paul Mariani