on 13 August 2014
The problem for an admirer of Eliot and/or Pound is political: how to reconcile the exceptional depth and brilliance of the poetry (to which any poet writing in English is still indebted, whether or not s/he knows it) with the display of anti-Semitism, and of Fascism in Pound's case, within many of the poems. Ricks is a critic of equal depth and brilliance and his close readings of Eliot's work explain - without in any sense excusing or explaining away - how Eliotean prejudice works poetically, and how, as Eliot's ethics become increasingly self-aware and nuanced, his poetics modulate and change for the better. The book helped me to return to Eliot with both ears open, as it were, rather than trying to be deaf to what had sounded so distasteful as to vitiate my appreciation of the poems. And Ricks writes with such deftness and eloquence that the act of reading every paragraph is an aesthetic as well as intellectual pleasure.