Randall Jarrell


The really damned not only like Hell, they feel loyal to it.

Pictures from an Institution

Most critics are so domesticated as to seem institutions–as they stand there between reader and writer, so different from either, they remind one of the Wall standing between Pyramus and Thisbe.

Essay, 1952

Only a man with the most extraordinary feel for language, or none whatsoever, could have cooked up Whitman’s worst messes. For instance: what other man in all the history of this planet would have said, “I am a habitant of Vienna”? (One has an immediate vision of him as a sort of French Canadian halfbreed to whom the Viennese are offering, with trepidation, through the bars of a zoological garden, little mounds of whipped cream.)

How little they seem performances, no matter how brilliant or magical, how little things made primarily of words (or of ink and paper, either), and how much things made out of lives and the world that lives inhabit.

on the poetry of Robert Frost

Half the campus was designed by Bottom the Weaver, half by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Benton had been endowed with one to begin with, and had smiled and sweated and spoken for the other.

Pictures from an Institution

As a writer Gertrude had one fault more radical than all the rest: she did not know–or rather, did not believe–what it was like to be a human being. She was one, intermittently, but while she wasn’t she did not remember what it had felt like to be one; and her worse self distrusted her better too thoroughly to give it much share, ever, in what she said or wrote.