First and foremost, my hero (and D.S. forebear at Partisan Review), Delmore Schwartz. Audio of him exists, but isn't easy to come by. The Poetry Foundation website now counts him among the Essential American Poets, so... neglectorino no more? Click here for a listen.
I don't believe in writing groups (just speaking for myself, not you!), but when some years ago my talented pals Daniel Bosch and Jenny Barber started attending one at Harvard - presided over by my Poetry Room predecessor, the legendary Stratis Haviaras -well, I went, anyway. It drove me nuts! But an enduring fascination was its most difficult, infuriating, and brilliant longtime member, Paul Hannigan. I've thought about him lots through the years - he died in 2000 - and often pull out his marvellous book, Laughing. Well, some of us burble about our neglectorinos, but other folks do some actual work on their behalf! And so I'm pleased and astonished to find a comprehensive and thoughtful piece on Hannigan by Adam Golaski, "Absent Friends: This is Not Sad; This is Not Funny," over at Open Letters Monthly; check it out here. A sample of Hannigan's poetry:
PEOPLE, BE GOOD
was Ruskin’s first sermon,
Carlyle preached silence
In forty volumes.
Libraries creek and groan,
The beds where monsters
Are bred. This is the
Bela Bartok Memorial Shopping Center
And this is a whole tongue
Brown and green from the
Dirt and grass it licked and ate.
And here’s a sheep’s head.
Baa. And there, the Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart Barbershop.
People, be good.
Just you try it.
How would you begin?
Speaking of when I was at Harvard... We had (literally) closets full of poetry-related treasures to sort through. One day back in about 2000 or so, I disgorged a crisp-looking red-jacketed book from a pile of books awaiting their curatorial fate: it was Dunstan Thompson's Poems 1950-1974, inscribed "For Stratis Haviaras, with all good wishes from the author's editor and executor, P.T., 14th February 1986." Intrigued, I found that the poems in the book were unusual, haunted, and haunting. It wasn't easy to find out much about the poet. Nevertheless, some time later, I was able to locate his earlier books, which were, to my mind, even more interesting. Recently, Thompson's work was also discovered by D.A. Powell and Kevin Prufer, who have now (though the poet did not want his early work reprinted) thoughtfully selected his poems and gathered essays about him in Dunstan Thompson: On the Life & Work of a Lost American Master, published in the new Pleiades Press "Unsung Masters" series. Ron Silliman calls it "one of the more important books of 2010." Neglectorino no more!
The book's introduction, by the way, narrates a funny and outrageous feud between Thompson and an editor of Poetry. When he was 22, Thompson along with Harry Brown started up a literary magazine called Vice Versa, which was introduced by a proclamation that "this magazine shall be a means to attack the smugness, the sterility, the death-in-life which disgrace the literary journals of America." The magazine called Berryman "quite competent when it comes to writing four and five stress iambic lines," but condemned William Carlos Williams as a "tireless fake" and Louis MacNeice as a "clever fraud." An attack on Poetry referred to it as "very much like Hamlet's father. It is dead, and yet it walks..." And when Poetry's editor responded angrily, Vice Versa wrote up the experience as "like having a dead maiden aunt stand up in her coffin and do a jig. ... Go back and lie down, maiden aunt. You wouldn't want someone to drive a stake through your heart, would you?"
Well, Thompson's first collection, Poems, came out in 1943, and despite the feuding, Poetry praised it (The Nation, however, called Thompson the author of "some very bad poetry... self indulgent and full of private symbols."). The book, along with a second, Lament for the Sleepwalker, remain fascinating, and indeed have been unjustly neglected. Later in life, for reasons Prufer and Powell's book explains, Thompson renounced these, and only wanted the later red-book poems to represent his work; the first two books remain out of print, but if you act quick, you can still obtain Poems 1950-1974; read the Pleiades collection to find out how!
Hardly anybody escapes Clive James's notice, and I should add that Clive wrote about Thompson for Poetry in our summer double-issue last year - unaware of any plans for a new book; read his piece here.
Finally: I have not forgotten about Jonathan Price, another neglectorino about whom I've promised to blog. His book, Everything Must Go, is even harder to find than Thompsons' - however, a selection has just appeared in Christopher Ricks's new anthology, Joining Music with Reason: 34 Poets British and American, Oxford 2004-2009, which includes poems by yours truly... so I'll hold off a bit on that!
Oh, and here's a major neglectorina: Nelly Sachs.