Highest Praise Imaginable for James Wilson

Rod Dreher has written the most enthusiastic review I’ve ever read for the latest issue of The American Conservative. Dreher says of James Wilson’s new book, The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in the Western Tradition, “This book is not only true and good, but also beautiful. I know that I will be reading it, and re-reading it, for the rest of my life.” It doesn’t come as a shock to me to hear my friend’s work spoken of so highly. I wrote a rather enthusiastic review of his last book.

2017 Newburyport Literary Festival Poetry Events

8:30 M Breakfast with the Poets: Four Powow River Poets with new books, Bill Coyle, David Davis, Nancy Bailey Miller, and Anton Yakovlev, along with special guest, David Berman.

10 AM Deft with a Dagger: A. M. Juster & Alexandra Oliver. You’ll die laughing.

11 AM The Play of Thought: Deborah Warren & Dan Brown. “Wit” has meant different things at different times. My favorite definition is from the 17th century: “Natural Wit consisteth in two things: Celerity in Imagining (that is, swift succession of one thought to another), and steddy direction to some approved end.” Here are two of our wittiest contemporaries.

1 PM Imagination Without Pretense:  Kevin Carey & Midge Goldberg. William Wordsworth would have loved these two poets, who write about “incidents and situations from common life” in “language really used by men [and women].” That’s probably what makes them both favorites of Garrision Keillor as well.

2 PM Licensed by the Muse: James Matthew Wilson & Catherine Chandler. In a time when many poets declare themselves “liberated” not only from meter and rhyme but even from punctuation and the rules of grammar, these two poets have devoted themselves to the study and practice of Engish verse technique, tapping into a creative wellspring over 700 years old. Theirs is truly “roots” music!

3 PM Master Craftsmen: Robert Shaw & Robert Mezey. Robert Mezey has been accused of “an unyielding poetic integrity;” Robert Shaw would plead guilty of the same offense. That may explain why these two excellent poets have stayed out of the spotlight despite lifetimes of high literary achievement. Like skilled burglars, their focus is not on getting attention but on getting the job done.

“In Praise of Mediocrity” by James Matthew Wilson

It’s not often that you’ll hear a poet say of himself, “I count myself as a mediocre poet,” as James Matthew Wilson does in this wonderful essay about the joy of writing in traditional forms. That joy comes from the sense of participation in a project too big to be completed in one lifetime. I can’t help chiming in with a line from my own poem, “Elegy for Everyone”: “The things that matter always take forever.” Here’s a link to Wilson’s essay.