Friday, October 16, 2009
Article on Steven Vincent Benet and John Brown's Body. I almost said that it's my favorite poem, but to be strictly honest, Benet is my favorite poet. It's true that there are long stretches of John Brown's Body that are kind of precious and others which are too much of their time. There are long stretches of John Brown's Body which I think count among the greatest things written in English, especially his summation of John Brown the man, and some scene-setting sections at the beginning. Other passages, especially the western stuff set after Shiloh, are... kind of Narmish. I think his best work was probably the Burning City, which included the superlative "Litany for Dictatorships" and "Nightmare, with Angels", as well as "Ode to the Austrian Socialists" and a lot of harrowing, doomful premonitions of the apocalyptic coming war which Benet wouldn't survive.