Who was John Holmes?
I was working on two articles, both about lexicographer Samuel Johnson. One was a literary tour of his house in London; the other was how the man known for his great dictionary had a career actually bookended by poetry.
I had ordered the book Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage by Richard Holmes, a recent publication readily available on Amazon. For some reason, there was trouble fulfilling the order, but I was finally notified that the book had shipped. When it arrived, it wasn’t the book by Richard Holmes; it was a used book entitled Selected Poems of John Holmes. I contacted the shipper; they checked their records and discovered they had sent the wrong book. The right book was sent, and they refused my offer to send the John Holmes book back, telling me to keep it at no charge for my inconvenience.
I had never heard of John Holmes, but I had heard of the man who had written the introduction – the poet and literary critic John Ciardi. The first translation I had read of Dante’s The Divine Comedy was the one by Ciardi. Holmes had been one of Ciardi’s professors at Tufts University, and a revered professor at that. He had also had a great influence upon a number of poets, including Richard Wilbur, Anne Sexton, and May Sarton.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph: Poet John Holmes about 1940.