To put it simply, by the time of Weldon Kees’s arrival, the dominant note in poetry on both sides of the Atlantic was that of negation of the modern reality. The source of this note was, of course, European Romanticism; its current mouthpiece, Modernism. To be sure, the reality by and large did not deserve any better. On the whole, art’s treatment of contemporary reality is almost invariably punitive—so much so that art itself, especially the incurably semantic art of poetry, can be suspected of having a strong Calvinist streak.

—Joseph Brodsky, “Weldon Kees,” (APR, July/Aug. 2010; reprinted from The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1993)

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