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David Mason Published in The Hudson Review

Professor of English David Mason ’78 has an article in the Winter 2014 issue of The Hudson Review titled “Levels of Ambition.” The piece is an assemblage of book reviews that look at five books of poetry: “For the Time Being” by W. H. Auden; “Madame X” by William Logan; “By Herself” by Debora Greger; “New and Selected Poems” by David Lehman; and “The Black Sea” by Stephanos Papadopoulos.

Mason writes that “Most contemporary poets I read seem too concerned with avoiding ridicule, trying to be the smartest kid in the workshop, rather than plumbing what Eliot called “the inexplicable mystery of sound”—bodying forth a whole charged expression of living. Much of our poetry seems denatured, flat. Intelligence abounds, cleverness is everywhere, but vitality is hard to find.”

What does Mason recommend? “The answer is to write necessary poems,” he says. He looks for transformative realizations, and writes “I don’t know why our poets think they are writing book reports. They all seem to want gold stars on their foreheads.”

The Hudson Review, founded in 1948, is a quarterly magazine of literature and the arts. “The Hudson Review is rare in having remained a forum for intelligent, well-written criticism and cultural commentary on a broad spectrum of topics. In fact it belongs to a tiny handful of magazines where the first criterion of inclusion is literary merit,” says The Wall Street Journal.