Advice from Toni Morrison, Richard Wilbur, John Berryman // Whitman’s Earliest Critics

Advice from Toni Morrison, Richard Wilbur, John Berryman, T. S. Eliot // Whitman's Earliest Critics Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 4/6/22: Another two-part episode. In the first, we hear from Toni Morrison about the use of anger in writing novels; from the poet Richard Wilbur on the suicide of fellow-poet John Berryman, and the perils of having few interests outside of poetry. Other remarks from Berryman himself, and T. S. Eliot, touch on the general perils of the creative life.

In the second part (starting around 24:17), I read from Walt Whitman’s earliest critics. While there’s a great deal of what we’d expect—denunciation and even mockery—it’s surprising to hear how much begrudging praise there is, as well. The full text of these and many other contemporary reviews of Leaves of Grass can be found in Gary Schmidgall’s Selected Poems of Walt Whitman.

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