Who is Ozymandias? And Other Puzzles in Poetry
by John Fuller
Random House, $36.95 hb, 256 pp, 9780701184575
Those who write about poetry these days don’t go in much for lightness. More often their solemnity springs from the need to score research points or from their front-line positions in gang wars. If only the verbal art could have a critic who trod as lightly as the epigrams of Laurie Duggan or the juxtapositional poems of Jennifer Maiden. But wishes are not horses, and we must be grateful for what we’ve got. Recently to hand is an agreeably jaunty book of essays from the Oxford poet John Fuller. He certainly likes to keep it light and clear: pedagogical in the gentlest way. As critic he reads hard, but writes soft: a close reader with a free rein, we might say. And he knows that any modern poem is, metaphorically, a hybrid between layered onion and head of broccoli.