taste and timelessness

How shifty a thing taste can be, how shitty, even one’s own. I tremble to remember the poets, like Elizabeth Bishop, I dismissed out of hand, whose greatness dawned on me only later. Then there are poets I once admired and who opened ways through thickets for me, but whose work now I find clumsy and shiftless. I think we all tend to believe we can see through the vagaries of our moment to some absolute standard of judgment—this must be a characteristic of human consciousness itself—but the conviction is absurd. So, I never blab anymore about poets whose work doesn’t or no longer moves me. But there are, however and thank goodness, poets the power and force of whose work once nearly knocked me down with delight and envy, and still does, so that when I read them again I feel again like an apprentice.

—C. K. Williams, “On Being Old,” In Time: Poets, Poems, and the Rest (U. of Chicago Press, 2012)

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