> > Now, while my opinion of Warren has certainly
> > been raised thanks to a careful reading of his work,
> > I'm not sure I agree with the professor's assessment
> > of him as the unsung hero of 20th century poetry.
> > Any thoughts? What do you folks think of Warren?
> > Does he stand a chance?
Warren is a thorny, unpleasant, knotty sort of poet. Even more than Eliot, he
resists comfortable interpretations, insists on doubt and difficulty, flirts
with transcendence while occasionally seeing it as horror, and sometimes
overuses the cruder slang of the American South (or uses it just for shock
I like him immensely.
To my mind, Warren was quite heavily influenced, in both his poetry and his
novels, by Eliot. He memorized 'The Waste Land' in college, and continued to
follow Eliot's career and his poetry closely. There's clearly a Bloomian
father issue there.
There's a good journal of Robert Penn Warren studies out recently, by the name
of RPW. In the first issue I look at the influence of Eliot's quartets on
Warren's primary novel "All the King's Men." Eliot's spirituality is
transfigured in Warren.
I think "All the King's Men" is more or less set as Warren's key book. I don't
know about RPW's future in poetic studies, though. His poetry is poorly
represented in most anthologies, and lacks "freshman appeal" to some extent
(no really great very short poems). I agree that the longer poems: the Audubon
volume, _Brother to Dragons_ and maybe _Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce_ are
among the best of his work.
With the Burt volume out, and a proper journal, I think the outlook is much
He's not nearly so accessible or beguiling as Yeats, I think, and he doesn't
have the critical appeal of Eliot (the endless puzzles to pick apart). But
for all that, I think he may reflect a more characteristically modern world
view--for me, Warren's thorny spirituality has a great appeal.