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The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (Nonpareil Book, 78): 10 (Nonpareil Books, 10)

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Unless he designates that a poem is a paraphrase of Latin, we miss it, Latin having dropped from classrooms. A pleasure of reading Davenport is his compression of any given matrix of affinities—the whole lit-crit trainspotting of influences on and influences of—into striking little scenes like that of Degas staying up all night with the Zoopraxia. Other than sharing a few anecdotes, Davenport completely erases himself from the scene: "Talking about oneself, said Menander, is a feast that starves the guest, and I hope in this essay to keep to the subject I was invited to consider.

If the success of man as a political, companionable animal whose culture has thus far progressed to families living in cities, that achievement of humanity is dying, Joyce saw. Rumor had it that he was attracted to both men and women, but he never made any public declarations about his sexuality. He brings a sort of geological perspective to literature, a sense (in John McPhee’s phrase) of “deep time” that you don’t often find in American letters.Cultus becomes our word culture, not in the portentous sense it now has, but in a much humbler sense. A pure display of unmatched intellect which never ceases to unveil art and ideas previously unknown.

Guy Davenport provides links between art and literature, music and sculpture, modernist poets and classic philosophers, the past and present—and pretty much everything in between.An exquisite, lovingly crafted meditation on plants, trees, and our place in the natural world, in the tradition of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek . When you see Degas’ dancers or his racehorses, see also his colleague in nineteenth century motion study, Muybridge, the London-born San Francisco bookseller who took up photography after a serious brain injury—he was thrown from a stagecoach whose operator had taken to using teams of half-wild mustangs in a bid to increase speed.

Accordingly, a rumination on cave painting is also a reflection on Pablo Picasso; a musing on the 19th-century art critic John Ruskin is also a meditation on labyrinths. His correspondence with Hugh Kenner, another of modernism’s torchbearers, was published in 2018 as “ Questioning Minds,” two volumes that add up to 2,000 pages. It's the sort of nuances that words possess that only a true poet like Davenport can recognize and appreciate. Many reviewers have noted that this is a master class of sorts; well, it is of a certain reading/poetic ideology. Shifting perceptions of landscape from topographical features we encounter in space to milemarkers in whole though cannons, Davenport brings readers across bridges linking Olson, Pound, Greek myth, Joyce, traditional symbolism of the Angles, and the revival of Old Russian.

The early interpreters of The Cantos tended to see the poem as a study of the man of willed and directed action, as a persona of Odysseus.

While Davenport confesses to subsisting often on fried bologna, canned soup and candy bars, his reclusive career is one to be celebrated. Accordingly, a rumination on cave painting is also a reflection on Pablo Picasso; a musing on the 19th-century art critic John Ruskin is also a meditation on labyrinths…. Accuracy in such matters being impossible, we can say nevertheless that the brilliant experimental period in twentieth-century art was stopped short in 1916.We can scarcely begin to realize his world in which the pencil stub and the three pieces of paper YOU have is all the pencil and all the paper you are ever going to have.

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