[Milton-L] Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...

jonnyangel junkopardner at comcast.net
Sat Dec 27 16:15:57 EST 2008

Well said Jim. 

My favorite contemporary poet, Billy Collins, has been an English Professor
at Lehman College for over 30 years. He also was U.S. Poet Laureate for two
terms. This coming semester I will have the privilege of taking a poetry
class taught by a very well respected poet with many published books of
poetry and a Yale Younger award. It is indeed a money issue, and many great
artists (poets, painters, musicians etc) still have to keep a day job.

But in my previous post I was talking about _academic_ writing in reference
to scholars vs. artists, and maybe I should have made that clearer (or just

As for Milton and PL, I think the syntax is, in part, why it has held up for
centuries - it just adds a timelessness to it. And Milton's command of
language, poetic craft (similes, assonance, internal rhyming etc), pacing,
narrative, character...is just jaw dropping (hey, and I've read Homer).

Maybe I'm biased with Milton (well, ok, I am) but that's ok. Maybe I think
Milton was a greater writer than, say, Homer (if such a man actually existed
and wrote Odyssey and Iliad all by himself) and it's just my own subjective
bias talking. 

But whatever the case may be, I don't see _how_ one could argue that there
has been any writer _better_ than Milton (using, of course, objective
criteria such as language, craft, etc).

Anyway, thanks for your post, and I did read your longish post also (as I do
with all of your posts).

Peace Shalom, 


On 12/27/08 9:53 AM, "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> Nancy -- I said in my very first reply on this thread:
> <<So a statement that Milton was the greatest author who ever lived sounds
> these days more like an emotional expression on the part of the person
> speaking rather than a careful evaluation of literature.>>
> I should have added that's a perfectly legitimate emotional expression.  But
> J's subsequent responses sounded like he meant more than this -- he was making
> objective comparisons, and still is, by insisting no one is greater in fact,
> and asking for names -- not just in his subjective experience of the poetry.
> I also suggested in my very first reply that the problem with any idea of
> greatness is that there's little agreement on the standards of greatness.
> But it was in a slightly longish post like this one that requires reading.
> Too much work on a holiday.
> J. -- The idea of a separation between "scholars" and "artists" doesn't hold
> up well.  Most academics who study poetry have also published poetry.  There
> are many successful mid-list novelists who also teach because that's a more
> stable source of income.  Arthur Miller, T.S. Eliot, Tolkein, Lewis, Annie
> Dillard -- all creative writers with strong connections to academics.  Some
> started in the academy, some started as creative writers.  To get an even
> better idea, though, go to the faculty pages of any major university and check
> out the publications of different faculty members.  You will usually find
> several who have also published creative work.  I published poetry and other
> works before I completed my undergraduate degree.  But $15.00-$25.00/poem plus
> a copy of the magazine just doesn't cut it.  I could publish a book of poetry
> and make big bucks, I guess.  We all know how well those sell.
> "Greater" is a comparative term.  The word "writing" covers everything.  Not
> so much about genre, but about what we expect a work to do while we read it.
> PL is indeed one of the greatest works in English, probably in any language.
> I don't know how anyone could possibly determine if any work was greater or
> not.  For sheer poetic effect, the poem's syntax sometimes makes reading it
> too much like figuring out a Sudoku puzzle.  But that's part of the poem's
> greatness as well.
> Jim R          
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