[IN] A PUBLISHED CONVERSATION I ONCE HAD with Kenneth Koch... he asked me if there were any hidden meanings in my poems. And I said no, and he said, “Why not?” and I said, “Because if there were, somebody might find them out, and they wouldn't be mysterious anymore.” So, in other words, I want my poetry not to have any hidden meanings, but I want it to be mysterious at the same time. Perhaps the only way to do that is not to have any meanings at all, I don't know—it’s something I’m still working on. —John Ashbery, dialogue with Pianist Sarah Rothenberg, 1992, (Bard College Publications). • WRITING IS ABOUT CHARACTER, IT’S NOT ABOUT content. It’s about who you are. —Nikki Giovanni, New York Times, August 1, 1996. WHEN I START WRITING A POEM, I DON'T THINK about models or about what anybody else in the world has done. —Gwendolyn Brooks, from “An Interview with Gwendolyn Brooks" in Contemporary Literature 11:1 (Winter 1970). WE HAD CEASED, WE IMAGINED, TO BE SURPRISED at anything that America could produce. We had become stoically indifferent to her Woolly Horses, her Mermaids, her Sea Serpents, her Barnums and her Fanny Ferns, but the last monstrous importation from Brooklyn, New York, has scattered our indifference to the winds... We should have passed over this book, Leaves ofGrass, with indignant contempt, had not some few Transatlantic critics attempted to ‘fix’ this Walt Whitman as the poet who shall give a new and independent literature to America – who shall form a race of poets as Banquo’s issue formed a line of kings. Is it possible that the most prudish nation in the world will adopt a poet whose indecencies stink in the nostrils? ... Walt Whitman is, as unacquainted with art, as a hog is with mathematics. —Review of the original edition ofWalt Whitman’s Leaves ofGrass, by an anonymous critic, The Critic 15 (April 1, 1856). Volume 7 - Page 19

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