Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–73) wrote poems too weird to be much appreciated in his own milieu, the United States of the nineteenth century, and not weird enough to distinguish the poet for many of his later readers who, failing to squint, saw little more than an accomplished sonneteer. Those contemporaries of Tuckerman’s who might have otherwise enjoyed his work tended to quibble and find his handling of form a bit “rough.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, an admirer of the 1860 edition of Tuckerman’s Poems, a privately printed affair, appears to have had a grasp of the problem. “[I]f you could be read twice,” Hawthorne wrote to Tuckerman, “the book might be a success; but who reads (in a way that deserves to be called reading) so much as once, in these days?” Hawthorne reminds us that holding the attention of the distracted...


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