The Well-Trained English Critic Surveys the American Scene

“Poetic theory in America is at present in an extremely curious state, resembling that of England during the Barons’ Wars rather than that of a healthy democracy or well-run autocracy. It is not even a decent civil war. . . .”

Thom Gunn in Yale Review

Sometimes I feel like a fodderless cannon
On one of those Midwestern courthouse lawns
Fiercely contested for by boys of ten and
Topped by a brevet genera! in bronze.
Hallucination, naturally: no
Era without its war, and this has its,
Roundabout somewhere, some imbroglio.
Even if only run by starts and fits.
Limber me up again, somebody.
In with the charges! To the touchhole! Wham!
Elevate me, ignite me, let one ruddy
Side or the other taste the thing I am!
This pale palaver, this mishmash of factions:
How can you find employment in a war
Of private sorties and guerrilla actions?
Maddening! Maddening! It chokes the bore!
Great God why was I tempered of pure Sheffield
Unless to belch and fulminate and reek?
Never in England would I be so stifled.
Name me the nearest caitiff: let me speak!