Articles by Stephen Akey

April 11, 2013

The Poet Who Died for Our Sins: On Charles Baudelaire 6

Faced with such misery, a little spiritual compromise doesn’t look like such a bad thing. That Baudelaire was incapable of such compromise was his undoing and our good fortune. Like a blasphemous Jesus, he took on our worst sins — pride, sloth, envy, lechery — and turned them into art.

October 2, 2012

Shakespeare as God 8

For me, reading Shakespeare is like going to church, except that in place of a God I could never and wouldn’t want to believe in, I “commune,” so to speak, with a mind that seems to comprehend all others and enforces no doctrinal obedience. This community of believers embraces anyone who has ever seen, heard, or read a word of Shakespeare’s and been moved to wonder and reflection. That’s what I call a catholic church.

July 24, 2012

Chuck Berry, Neoclassicist 16

Blues, country and western, Johnsonian neoclassicism: these are the traditions that nurture Chuck Berry’s lyrical art. But really, who gives a damn about the categories when you’re listening to something as smoking as “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”?

May 3, 2012

The Poetry of Mental Unhealth: Philip Larkin 10

Readers have a perfect right to regard Philip Larkin, as I do not, as a complete shit. But if they consider his personal failings indistinguishable from his poetry, I think the loss is theirs.

April 12, 2012

Dream a Little Dream of Me: John Berryman 9

Among the adjectives Vendler applies to Henry are “regressive, petulant, hysterical, childish, cunning, hypersexual, boastful, frightened, shameless, and revengeful.” Also, “complaining, greedy, lustful, and polymorphously perverse.” Did we miss anything? How about self-pitying, irresponsible, envious, and grandiose?