Poet and Person

Philip Larkin was a nasty man. Sylvia Plath was ambitious. Robert Frost could be a jerk. Ezra Pound… well, no need to state the obvious. Robert Lowell, nuts. Sam Johnson was a sweet and kind guy, but we wouldn’t know that were it not for Boswell, who drank too much and was lecherous. Literary biography leaves few looking good, and the funny thing is, in the case of poets a nicely scandal-ridden volume can outsell the complete works of the poet by a factor of a thousand or so. How many who know about Larkin’s racism and misogyny from the bios also own a book of his poems?

Iggy Pop said it well. Iggy Pop doesn’t have a lot to hide.

Pop has never imagined a traditional domestic life for himself. (In 1969, when Pop was twenty-one and living in Ann Arbor, he had a son, Eric, with Paulette Benson. Eric was brought up by his mother, in California, and lives in Berlin now.) In part, this is why it matters so much to him that his work remain vital. “It’s gotta be fucking good,” he said. “This is what you’ve sacrificed a lot of things for, dude, and this is what you were doing when you weren’t always there for other people, so it’d better be good.”

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