John Clare, “the peasant poet,” wrote wide-ranging poems on rural themes, distinguishing himself from his peers in the 19th-century literary scene in England. In 1830, in the midst of an episode of depression, he wrote a long polemic against the first-person pronoun, in the form of a letter to his friend Eliza Emmerson. In The Paris Review Daily, an excerpt of the letter.
Tim Parks investigates the idea of “writing to death” in the cases of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens and William Faulkner. “So many of the writers I have looked at seem permanently torn between irreconcilable positions,” Parks writes. “Eventually, the dilemma driving the work either leads to death, or is neutralized in a way that prolongs life but dulls the writing” (Bonus: Our own Mark O’Connell just reviewed Parks’s latest book, Italian Ways.)
Fifty years ago, Frank O’Hara released Lunch Poems, a collection of remarkably informal poetry that rebuked the more academic verse of his day. As a tribute, Dwight Garner writes about the importance of the book in the Times, arguing that O’Hara’s grasp of the zeitgeist is the reason he appeared on Mad Men. For more on the poet’s legacy, take a look at Christopher Richards on O’Hara’s lessons for being gay.
Leave it to Roxane Gay to come up with a novel format for an essay on the feminist novel. In the new issue of Dissent, she presents eleven theses on the topic, including references to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, and Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Sample quote: “Not every novel that concerns itself with the lives of women is a feminist novel. Fifty Shades of Grey is not a feminist novel.” You could also read our own Edan Lepucki on the problem with feminist anthems.