When I first read Edgar, and realised he was making up these elaborate stanzas and then replicating them throughout the poem as if to prove that his idea of formal freedom was all discipline and vice versa, I thought immediately of Richard Wilbur in that sumptuous post-WWII phase when he was producing the intricately articulated clarities of “Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning” and “A Baroque Wall Fountain in the Villa Sciarra”. But at our first epic lunch the second bottle of Cloudy Bay had barely been broached before Edgar revealed that, much as he admired Wilbur, for him Anthony Hecht had been the Man. Either way, a foreign technical influence had been the right kind to suspect. If Edgar had read neither Wilbur nor Hecht, he might still have got the idea from Larkin, who was making up stanza forms quite early in his career; and of course Larkin got it from Hardy and the later Yeats. Edgar might quite possibly have concocted the whole approach if he had read nothing but Keats’s Odes. What is certain, however, is that there had been very little Australian poetry like it. If Edgar was getting his technical inspiration out of the air, it was out of the world’s air, and not just the air of his own country.
more from Clive James at clivejames.com here.