Good poetic lines

From the 7/26 issue of the New York Review of Books, in “The Troubling Genius of Delmore” by Jonathan Galassi (a review of Once and for All: The Best of Delmore Schwartz, ed. by Craig Morgan Teicher and with an introduction by John Ashbery):

… The critic Michael Clune has written [where? Galassi doesn’t say, but maybe in Clune’s 2013 book Writing Against Time] about Ashbery that the basic unit of his poetic practice is not the book, or even the poem, but the line. I think the same can be said for Delmore; apart from his few best poems, what really stays with the reader are individual lines, some of them employed, with slight variations, as titles:

The heavy bear who goes with me…

In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave…

The beautiful American word, Sure…

Tired and unhappy, you think of houses…

We are Shakespearean, we are strangers.

The mind is a city like London, Smoky and populous…

The actual is like a moist handshake, damp with nervousness or the body’s heat.

It’s impossible to gainsay the brilliance of these phrases, even when great poems fail to rise out of them.

I have to admit that I can’t make any objective sense of the notion the basic unit of poetic practice, but maybe its value is just to allude to the power of individual lines (wrenched out of context) for some poets.

I occasionally note good lines, some from poetry which to my mind is otherwise undistinguished, some from well-framed prose, some  just “found poetry” (in often unlikely places). Meanwhile,

In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave,
We are Shakespearean, we are strangers.

Just shadows, you might say.

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