always hungry

These, then, are Robinson’s kinds of originality, of poetic value—all of them subtle and half hidden, muffled and disturbing, answering little but asking those questions that are unpardonable, unforgettable, and necessary.

It is curious and wonderful that this scholarly, intelligent, childlike, tormented New England stoic, “always hungry for the nameless,” always putting in the reader’s mouth “some word that hurts your tongue,” useless for anything but his art, protected by hardier friends all his life, but enormously courageous and utterly dedicated (he once told Chard Powers Smith at the very end of his life, “I could never have done anything but write poetry”), should have brought off what in its quiet, searching, laborious way is one of the most remarkable accomplishments of modern poetry.

—James Dickey, “Edward Arlington Robinson,” Babel to Byzantium: Poets and Poetry Now (Ecco Press, 1981)

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