Falling out

March 12, 2014

I know it’s about Vietnam, about the contested nature of poetry as precipitated by that event.   And it couldn’t have been more public.  Their letters, now collected into a volume, documented the widening gap, followed by a collection of scholarly essays, edited by Al Gelpi and Robert Berthoff, Poetry of Politics and Politics of Poetry.   Surely, every conceivable angle ought to have been covered.

And yet the falling out remains murky in my head.  It couldn’t have been the case of one being in the wrong and the other in the right, or even one being Jewish and the other not. And it’s definitely not a case in which one could weigh in, take sides.

I’d rather think of it as being like a disease, like Alzheimer’s, or arthritis,  about which there’s really not much to say, except that it’s there.

That’s how I think of the falling out between James Baldwin and Richard Wright.   And that’s how I think of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov.


About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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