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When students only have read a few poems, in exclusively academic contexts, they often approach poetry with what the li...

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Beckett Paradox

Beckett is a great writer, and a great poet. He wrote lines like "Je dors peu et le peu que je dors, je le dors le jour." All the things that we look for in poetry are there in Beckett's writing, and he is most profitably compared to poets, not playwrights or novelists. That's where a large part of his influence has gone. Yet the last place you would look for his poetry is in his so-called "poems." Without these poems, his reputation would be almost exactly the same as it is with them. If he's written more poems like those, and not written his other works, he'd be a very minor modernist poet.

The second paradox is that his most famous work, Waiting for Godot, the source of a good part of his fame, is not at all what's most interesting about him. I love Beckett but hardly ever return to that play. I don't even hate it, it just seems a distraction from all the rest.

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