Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003380, Tue, 22 Sep 1998 09:30:47 -0700

Re: VN & Sentiment (fwd)
At 02:06 PM 9/18/98 -0700, Galya Diment wrote:
>In his later life, as we all know, VN was very proud of
>his "Swallow" (also known as the "Swift") poem. I suspect that, like
>Joyce, he did have different criteria for excessive "emoting" in poetry
>and prose -- but that does not explain it all away either.

From: "Jerry Friedman, Northern N. M. Community College"

I wonder whether a problem with the "Swallow" poem is that one idea
it's about--which I take to be individual, particular, detailed
reality--was far more important to him than to most of the rest of us.
People have been defining sentimentality as emotion in excess of what is
warranted. Perhaps to Nabokov, the subject of that poem warranted tears.
It doesn't to me (though I have some sympathy), so the poem strikes me as
As a rather unsuccessful poet, I've learned that my poems that are
most important to me aren't necessarily most enjoyed by friends or
little-magazine editors. (In fact, I may only be projecting--if the more
dogmatic Nabokovians will forgive a Freudian term. I wrote a poem on a
swallow-like [hirundine?] theme, without tears though, and most people who
have read it have no idea what I'm saying, much less why I care about it.)
If Nabokov had been a truly great poet, and maybe willing to spend a
few more lines on his swallow, he might have been able to show more readers
its importance to him, or even to themselves. Look what Keats did with
self-pity. Though I shouldn't give an opinion, since I haven't read many
of Nabokov's poems and I don't read Russian, I think that kind of poetic
greatness was denied him, just as Frost-y settling of snowflakes was denied
to Shade.
Jerry Friedman