R(ichard) P(almer) Blackmur 1904–1965
American critic, poet, and editor.
Despite his relatively small number of published works, Blackmur is regarded as an imaginative and influential critic and a significant contributor to the New Criticism movement.
In his critical writings, Blackmur consistently emphasized the importance of language: "[The] only kind of meaning poetry can have requires that all its words resume their full life: the full life being modified and made unique by the qualifications the words perform upon one another in the poem." Blackmur did not develop or follow a particular critical theory. Rather, he chose a distinctive approach to each work of literature by examining a writer's individual style and using an appropriate method of analysis. Blackmur's work is also characterized by his use of complex sentences and convoluted syntax.
His first book, The Double Agent, is a discussion of the merits and limitations of a number of distinguished poets, including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Wallace Stevens. Language As Gesture, Blackmur's next work, is considered his finest collection of pure literary criticism because of its concentration on technique in poetry. This volume also points toward the social criticism Blackmur developed later in The Lion and the Honeycomb and in his essays on Henry Adams.
(See also CLC, Vol. 2; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 11-12, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed. [obituary]; and Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 1.)