The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 21, 2017

January 21, 1904

R. P. Blackmur (January 21, 1904 to February 2, 1965)) is remembered for his criticism as well as his poetry. Criticism such as:

Dirty Hands; or, The true-born censor.
The Double Agent: Essays in craft and elucidation.
Form and Value in Modern Poetry. 1946.
Language as Gesture: Essays in poetry.
The Lion and the Honeycomb: Essays in solicitude and critique
. 1955.
Anni Mirabiles, 1921-1925: Reason in the madness of letters: Four lectures presented under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund
. 1956.
Four Poets on Poetry
(by Richard P. Blackmur, Yvor Winters, Marianne Moore, & Mark Van Doren; edited by Don Cameron Allen). 1959.
American Short Novels.
Eleven Essays in the European Novel. 1964.
A Primer of Ignorance (edited by Joseph Fink). 1967.
Studies in Henry James. 1983.
Selected Essays of R.P. Blackmur
(edited by Denis Donoghue). 1986.

This brief biographical blurb sketches his career:

Literary critic, poet, playwright, and author Richard Palmer Blackmur was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The son of a boarding house owner, he was expelled from the Cambridge High and Latin School at 14 after arguing with the headmaster. He became an autodidact and attended lectures at Harvard University but did not pursue an academic degree. He worked in a bookstore in Cambridge and for two years edited the small literary magazine Hound & Horn.

Blackmur’s formal, metered poems engage moral and intellectual themes.
Collected Poems (1977) draws together the three volumes of poetry he published during his lifetime, which include From Jordan’s Delight (1937), The Second World (1942), and The Good European and Other Poems (1947).

Blackmur’s critical writing, which emphasizes the process of close reading as a means of examining how literary language shapes understanding of form and technique, played an integral role in the development of the New Criticism. In the New York Review of Books, Michael Wood stated, “R.P. Blackmur was much possessed by failure, by what RenĂ© Wellek calls an insight into human insufficiency.… Blackmur wished he could show, ‘clearly, self-evidently, and irrefutably,’ how criticism resembles art.”

Blackmur’s honors included the inaugural Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, membership in the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellowship in American Letters at the Library of Congress. He served as vice president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, taught for 25 years at Princeton University, and founded the Christian Gauss Seminars on Criticism there. The Princeton University library holds a selection of his papers.

From his poem "Ides of March to April Fool's"

Easter took wing, last years forsythia
neared bloom and sudden cats rode male
the female tattering agony at midnight with their
discovery. Lapis revolutus est,
moved from the dead, set on the living chest.
In short, he heard that so and so announced
themselves engaged and meant to propagate.


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