Saturday, January 02, 2016
`People Who Have Done Nothing Spectacular'
With his plainspoken diction and deceptively conversational rhythms, Edwin Arlington Robinson ranks high among the memorable and readily memorizable poets. Like a benign virus, his poems invade one’s imagination and replicate their host, turning his stories into our memories. (We all know Richard Cory and Miniver Cheevy.) The best of Robinson’s work has the virtues of good fiction. He writes not about stylized heroes and villains (which would include self-serving poets) but men and women we recognize in their modesty and fallibility. Even their eccentricities seem familiar, not campy or cartoonish. Here is “The Clerks” from his first collection, The Torrent and the Night Before (1896):