One of the things that chiefly distinguishes William Logan’s thinking about poetry from that of other critics is the reasonable separation he grants between the poet and the poem. That is to say, Logan reads poetry neither as if it were a mirror of the poet’s soul, nor does he read it, as post-structuralist theory demands, as mere “text,” as a depersonalized artifact composed from all other poetic texts.

In Reputations of the Tongue, his second collection of essays and reviews, Logan opens with a discussion of T. S. Eliot’s classic 1919 essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” He lays out the points at which his thinking diverges from Eliot’s, specifically regarding Eliot’s ideas about “impersonality.” Eliot believed that individual personality was often an impediment to genuine poetic expression. Consequently he suggested that the poet should seek the...


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