Since its founding in 1953, The Paris Review has been a lively and companionable Baedeker to contemporary literary life. The editors helped popularize the Literary Interview (an innovation some of us have come to rue as the eminence of the interviewees has slipped and slipped over the years) and have generally managed to keep up a tonic attitude to the vagaries of the literary life. This broad-church approach to culture doubtless has its liabilities, but it also has its virtues. There is a friendly, bonhomous quality to The Paris Review that makes it a browser’s treat. The Spring 2000 issue is a case in point: a special “Poetry Issue,” it includes scores of poems—several good ones, too—by names famous and not-so-famous. Among the many things we can recommend is Cynthia Zarin’s allegro “Auden in the Aquarium,” which captures something essential about Auden’s omnivorous affirmative melancholy. This special issue also includes a handful of interviews, an essay or two, contemporary poets’ comments on facsimiles of the manuscripts of some famous poems (by Byron, Poe, Keats, Pope), and even a set exercise in light verse. (We applaud any effort to resuscitate the tradition of light verse.) Not everything will be to everyone’s taste, but for anyone interested in the state of contemporary poetry, this issue of The Paris Review offers a series of evocative snapshots.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 9, on page 4
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