Friday, February 05, 2010

nuanced commie critic

Stanley Burnshaw, who died at 99 years of age just a few years ago, reviewed Wallace Stevens's Ideas of Order critically in the communist New Masses in 1935. Although Stanley left his association with the Party fairly early (he'd never been a member, so far as I know--and he was always skeptical of aesthetic "lines"), and was very active as a translator and anthologist, and later as a senior editor at Henry Holt, the poetry world forgot about him as he developed his literary portfolio and sensibility. They seemed to prefer Burnshaw, frozen in Depression time, as the angry young lefty, hurling Marxist critique at the insular modernist. But Stanley was right there, all along, to be found and talked to. I came to know him in the 80s and eventually spent many hours at his apartment, with Harvey Teres (then at Princeton, writing a book about Partisan Review). We recorded the interview, then excerpted it and, with Stanley, edited it. Then published it in the Wallace Stevens Journal in 1989. I've been digging around my old things, as readers of this blog will have noted, and found the interview. Made a PDF of it and here it is.