Randall Jarrell stung Richard Wilbur with ‘that damn review’

“….”The most influential response to [Richard] Wilbur’s first books of poems came from [Randall] Jarrell — who, with his incomparable gift for the killer witticism, compared Wilbur to a football halfback who always settled for six or eight yards, instead of taking a chance for a big gain. ‘Mr. Wilbur never goes too far, Jarrell judged, ‘but he never goes far enough.’

“These words were to dog Wilbur’s reputation over the decades; ‘I got sick of people quoting from that damn review,’ the poet told his biographers, who rightly deem Jarrell’s review more innuendo and anecdote’ than analysis….”

— From “Celebration of the World” by William H. Pritchard in Commonweal (Aug. 27), a review of   “Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study” by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg (2017)


That time Johnny Unitas deflated Randall Jarrell’s ego

Poet and critic Randall Jarrell, one of the most prominent American intellectuals of the mid-20th century, taught a seminar in Russian literature at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall of 1964. I was an MFA student in fiction at the time and a member of Jarrell’s class—the last he saw through to the end before his death at the age of 51. One night in October 1965, Jarrell was killed by a car when walking along a highway in Chapel Hill…. Jarrell’s biographer William Pritchard has pointed out that although the circumstances of Jarrell’s death will always remain unclear, something in him evidently ‘gave way’ during his final years.

“I saw that giving way in Jarrell’s seminar. Though his lectures, most of them about Nikolai Gogol, were mesmerizing, he sometimes seemed agitated and depressed. He occasionally veered into obsessive talk about Johnny Unitas, the quarterback nicknamed the Golden Arm, who was leading the Baltimore Colts to the NFL championship game that year. Jarrell, an avid football fan, told us of a recent encounter with Unitas on an airplane. Jarrell greeted his hero rhapsodically, but—to his dismay—Unitas had never heard of him, one of America’s most celebrated poets….”

— From “The Gogol Notebook” by Angela Davis-Gardner in American Scholar (Dec. 5, 2016)


If link dump had a budget, we’d protest cutting it

“Wisconsin of the South”? Does that make us pimiento-cheeseheads?

— Speaking of cheese, how about a Hatcher Cracker?

A lady of uncertain age shows up on Hatteras Island.

— Come 2061, will we still be hearing paeans to blacks in gray? But reality triumphs — grownups, take note — in a seventh-grade classroom.

— What astronaut and poet laureate have in common: cold shoulder from Guilford County schools.

Say, isn’t that Randall Jarrell on that pediment?

On this day in 1931: The world’s only actual-size replica of the Parthenon, constructed in Nashville in 1896 to celebrate the Tennessee centennial, reopens after extensive renovation and additions.

Newly depicted on a pediment is eight-year-old Randall Jarrell, who posed for the sculpture of Gunymede, cupbearer to the gods. Reads the inscription, signed by the sculptors and dated 1925: “To Randall — our most interested and interesting visitor.”

As an adult, Jarrell will become more prominently celebrated as literary critic for The Nation, poetry editor of the Yale Review and teacher at Woman’s College in Greensboro.

At age 51, he is fatally struck by a car while walking along a dark road in Chapel Hill.