A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society – 1997-2008

Stephen Burt writes:

A Human Eye contains an encomium Rich wrote for a new edition of James Scully’s Line Break, a collection of Marxist essays on poetry first published in 1988. A radical writer, Scully says, must conduct self-criticism and make it audible in the poems. Yet this self-searching can’t be allowed to mean inner exile or withdrawal: ‘A realised work entails … extratextual social praxis.’ It’s a forbidding prescription, part Brecht and part New Left, but it describes what Rich has been trying to do. The awkwardness that results from such attempts ‘may be perceived as formless’ – it may really be formless, as Scully does not say – but it may also be something scarily, fragmentarily new, something that rebukes by its very haltingness those of us who seem more content than Rich with the world as it is.

(LRB 9 February 2012)

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