Sunday, December 14, 2014

`Of the Anastrophic Mind'

“It’s a quirky spirit he carried through the arch
To aftertime, making a salted fun
Of the holy show and grudging his respect
For all but truth, the master of a style
Able to see things as he saw through things.”                      

Avoid quirky as cute and hinting at euphemism, though it’s useful to learn the word’s oldest and still current meaning is “tricky, wily, cunning.” Howard Nemerov knew what he was doing. “Cunning” is the epithet we associate readily with Odysseus, who also visited the “aftertime,” the Underworld. He returned, as Philip Larkin did not. The poem is “Larkin” from Nemerov’s Trying Conclusions: New and Selected Poems, 1961-1991, published in 1992, the year after his death and seven years after Larkin’s. Nemerov alludes to "The Old Fools." He acknowledged a kindred spirit, a master, one of the “great and dead”: “Dear Larkin of the anastrophic mind, / Forever now among the undeceived. Nemerov nods to Vers de Société and closes obliquely, looking back at Larkin’s first mature collection, The Less Deceived (1955). “Anastrophic,” the syntactic inversion, suggests not a backward mind but one forever looking back.  


Subbuteo said...

"Our Roman" says Nemerov of Larkin for what he supposes to be the steely unflinching gaze Larkin maintained on death. For me this isn't true, though. Larkin's gaze on death was that of the terrified rabbit knowing the fox is coming to get him. In the end it was just an unedifying funk very far from the Roman virtue of dying well. Most of his later years were pickled in alcohol for this reason.

terryteachout said...

When I use "quirky," I usually mean for it to be taken as a pejorative.