Selected Poems of Yvor Winters

Yvor Winters, Author, R. L. Barth, Editor, R. L. Barth, Contribution by
Yvor Winters, Author, R. L. Barth, Editor, R. L. Barth, Contribution by Swallow Press $14.95 (170p) ISBN 978-0-8040-1013-9
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Hardcover - 128 pages - 978-0-8040-1012-2
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Thirty years after his death, Winters (1900-1968) is still known primarily as the American poet-critic who gave up on ""experimental"" poetry to defend the resources of ""traditional form."" Critics point to Winters' early poems to portray him as an expert in these modes he later renounced, but like the later poems written under the sign of Ben Jonson they are uneven in quality. The very early ""Two Songs of Advent"" kicks off the book with its blend of Imagist technique and western, quasi-Native American thematics, and ""The Cold"" and ""Jos 's Country"" deserve to be better known. But much of the early Winters can seem inconsequential as well as belated next to the canonical modernist poetry it imitates. Early and late, the poems ceaselessly wrestle with ontological singularity and a hostile nature--Winters's one certainty was death--and are rife with the screams of children and dogs, and images of a bleak American West. One appreciates the moments when the struggle against emotional excess is most at risk, as in ""Song of the Trees"" (with its exclamatory opening: ""Belief is blind! Bees scream!"") or ""The Realization."" Some better known poems such as ""A View of Pasadena from the Hills"" or ""The Slow Pacific Swell"" seem to have wrinkled--to use a word strangely persistent in these poems--as have the pastoral settings and conventions. But there is enough that is still surprising in Winters, especially in his efforts to find a poetry adequate to public event, to urge that he be read by those beyond the faithful in his now-dwindling, Stanford-based circle. (Mar.)
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