Randall Jarrell once wrote, in praise of William Carlos Williams, “When you have read Paterson you know for the rest of your life what it is like to be a waterfall.” Yet there’s another way to ascertain what it is to be a phenomenon that flows, coruscates, sings, and revitalizes: you might turn to the essays of Jarrell himself. Thirty-four years after his untimely death, at the age of fifty-one, he remains a bright, propulsive presence. A powerfully attractive personality —witty, affectionate, energetic, and positively brilliant—emerges in his letters; in his beautiful, piercing poems; in assorted memoirs and a biography; in his photographs (the camera loved his spirited brown eyes and lanky torso); in his comic novel, Pictures from an Institution, and his four children’s books; and in the various recordings he left behind, in which the voice breaks boyishly and sounds, oddly, appealingly, just a little...

 
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