Reading Old Friends

Essays, Reviews, and Poems on Poetics 1975-1990

By John Matthias

Subjects: Poetry
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791408803, 348 pages, February 1992
Hardcover : 9780791408797, 348 pages, February 1992

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Table of contents


Part I: Old Friends and Old Selves

Reading Old Friends
Places and Poems: A Self-Reading and a Reading of the Self in the Romantic Context from Wordsworth to Parkman

Part II: Others

Poetry of Place: From the Kentucky River to the Solent Shore
W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten
Robert Duncan and David Jones: Some Affinities
Dai Greatcoat
The Later Poetry of David Jones
Such a Kingdom: The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill 1952-1971
Poet-Critics of Two Generations
Some Notes on the English Poetry of Goran Printz-Pahlson

Part III: Three Poems on Poetics

Turns: Toward a Provisional Aesthetic and a Discipline
Double Derivation, Association, and Cliche: From the Great Tournament Roll of Westminster
Clarifications for Robert Jacoby: "Double Derivation . ..," part iv, II. 1-10; part vii, II. 1-15, 22-28

Part IV: Not for Sales in USA, Some Poets of the 1980s

Anthologies of Contemporary British Poetry
Poet-Translators and Translator-Poets
Of Publishers, Readings, and Festivals: Circa 1986
Anglo-Welsh Poetry
Hugh MacDiarmid and Scottish Poetry
Scottish Poetry after MacDiarmid
Inside History and Outside History: Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Contemporary Irish Poetry

Part V:: After Auden, Some Poets of the 1970s

Michael Hamburger
R. S. Thomas and Edwin Morgan
Elizabeth Daryush and Barbara Guest
Jon Stallworthy
Paris Leary
Anne Stevenson
David Steingass
William Hunt and William Everson
John Fuller
Elizabeth Jenings and Peter Porter
John Cotton and D. M. Thomas



Reading Old Friends includes essays, reviews, and poems on poetics. Matthias, who has spent much time in England, concentrates on British poetry ranging from late modernist figures such as David Jones and Hugh MacDiarmid to contemporaries such as Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Michael Hamburger, and John Fuller. He also seeks to establish, or re-establish, meaningful trans-Atlantic connections between Wendell Berry and Jeremy Hooker, for example, or between Robert Duncan and David Jones. Other, more generally acknowledged figures, are also discussed, including Wordsworth, Pope, Crabbe, Constable, Turner, Britten, Tippet, Lowell, Auden, and Berryman. The book also contains three poems on poetics that engage many of the theoretical issues left implicit in most of the essays.

John Matthias is Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and has been Visiting Fellow in poetry at Clare Hall, Cambridge. His six volumes of poetry include Turns, Crossing, Northern Summer: New and Selected Poems, and A Gathering of Ways. He has co-translated Contemporary Swedish Poetry, and The Battle of Kosovo, and he has edited 23 Modern British Poets, Introducing David Jones, and David Jones: Man and Poet. He has received awards from the Columbia University Translation Center, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Society of Midland Authors, and the Poetry Society of America. His poems and essays appear regularly in many American and British journals, and his work has been translated into Swedish, Dutch, French, German, Greek , and Serbo-Croatian.


"John Matthias is one of the leading poets in the USA at the moment. He is also an accomplished critic. These pieces are written in a congenial and civilized style. They are not 'criticism' in the current sense of tedious argument and defended theory. John writes for an audience that reads. Even so, there is a great deal of good criticism here, and the book will be reviewed as a critical tour de force. This is a lively book, an intelligent one, and one I think many will admire and find powerfully interesting. " — Guy Davenport, University of Kentucky

"He is a unique talent, combining the experimental energies of modernism and postmodernism with an acute sense of literary form…These impulses emerge, variously but always engagingly, throughout the essays collected here. " — Vincent Sherry, Villanova University

In reviewing Matthias' column "Not for Sale in USA," the Washington Post said of his poetry criticism, "Matthias writes with such gusto, knowledge, and love… Every word of this is exciting for anyone in the least interested in poetry. "