One-Minute Book Reviews

October 4, 2007

Do Emily Dickinson’s Poems ‘Make a Virtue Out of Collapsing’? (Quote of the Day/Philip Larkin via John Bayley)

I just reviewed John Bayley’s Good Companions this morning, but I like this anthology so much I can’t resist quoting from it again. Here’s Bayley on Emily Dickinson:

“A wonderful poet at her best; but, unlike Blake, Emily Dickinson seldom keeps going to the end of what is always a short poem. Philip Larkin observed that her poems sometimes seemed to make a virtue out of collapsing, as if the weight of inspiration could no longer be borne. That is certainly not true of either of these poems [‘Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant’ and ‘Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers,’ both included in Good Companions].

John Bayley, the former Oxford professor and author of Elegy for Iris (Picador, 1999), in Good Companions: A Personal Anthology (Little, Brown/Abacus, 2002).

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. My favorite poet since junior high, Dickinson is ironic but not elusive. Deliberate but not obvious. Her poetry’s “collapsing” is an interesting analysis. The term may be too destructive. She does, however, almost always “tell it slant” since therein lies “success.”

    Comment by paisleyandplaid — December 16, 2007 @ 12:52 am | Reply

  2. It’s so interesting to hear what one great poet, like Larkin, has to say about another, isn’t it? I wonder what Dickinson might have said about him …

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 16, 2007 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

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