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May 24, 1959 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1959-05-24
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4

"LIFE STUDIES":*

Robert Lowell Enters
His Own Distinct Idiom

By RUSS GREGORY
LIFE STUDIES, by Robert Lowell.
Farrar, Straus and Cudahy. New
York. 1959. 90 pages. $3.50.
ROBERT LOWELL is regarded as
the outstanding American poet
under fifty. "Life Studies," his
new book, is a brilliant explanation
of why he is so highly rated: he
has not only talent, which is fairly
common, but the genius to change,
a quality which demands new
praises. His new book reveals an
altered man from the gifted poet of
"Lord Weary's Castle" (1947) and
"The Mills of the Kavanaughs"
(1951).
When "Lord Weary's Castle" ap-
peared (after a first, privately-
printed volume) and won the
Pulitzer Prize, Lowell achieved a
considerable fame, not all related
to his poetry. Life magazine, for
example, published a photographic
essay on Lowell.
A descendant of a great Amer-

ican family (a Boston Lowell, re-
lated to Amy, James Russell, A.
Lawrence, and seven or eight
earlier generations of "Mayflower
/ screwballs"), who criticized and
damned Boston and New England
(there is a great difference), em-
braced Roman Catholicism, who
did not graduate from Harvard
College-all this was a Life-Time
dream.
The"Lowell of "Lord Weary's
Castle" was angry, hurt, strident
of tone, and devout with the
peculiar Puritan fervor which
seems reserved to Roman con-
verts:
"I walk upon the flood:
j My way is wayward, there is
no way out:
Now how the weary waters
swell,-
The tree is down in blood:
All the bats of Babel flap
about

The rising sun of hell ."

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LOWELL'S poems are gnarled,
knotty and, in complexity of
rhyme, diction and metrics, re-
vealed a conscious craftsman who
had not always unlearned enough
G. M. Hopkins or, in "The Mills,"
one who had learned too much
Browning. But there was no doubt
that Robert Lowell was a real
poet Critics called him "a genuine,
formidable, various and active
poet . . . a talent whose ceiling is
invisible," with a "moral earnest-
ness operating in intense con-
scious activity."
"Life Studies" is both fruition
of Lowell's previous lines of de-
velopment and a new departure
in an idiom distinctly his own. The
eight years between "The Mills of
the Kavanaughs" and "Life
Studies" are a parallel to the
changes Yeats accomplished be-
tween 1904 and 1914: where Yeats
left the soft aestheticism of the
'nineties to write major poetry of
a new order, Lowell has left the
perverse, whimpering didacticism
which passes for orthodox mod-
ernity to grapple with his own
muse: "For there's more enterprise
/ In walking naked."
What sharpens the parallel of
Lowell to Yeats is Lowell's auto-
biographical prose piece, "91 Re-
vere Street," in this new book (it
was.in 1914 that Yeats published
the first of his Autobiographies,
"Reveries over Childhood and
Youth"). It seems apparent that
at a similar point both ,men passed
through an initial engagement to
a movement and set of attitudes,
only to find what they had avoided,
coming to grips with the self,
contained the only truths they
were likely to find-in poetry or
out.
And Lowell, like Yeats, writes
superb prose; one has the feeling
that it is almost too good. The
years since "The Mills" have
brought to Lowell a detachment
which precludes repudiation of his
earlier poems; they stand as valid
-for their time. Where he once
appeared to resent and deny his
heritage as a curse, he now seems
to regard it and all its cumulative
weight with a humorous, ironical,
but not unkindly eye:
COUSINCASSIE only became a
close relation in 1922. In that
year she died. After some un-
pleasantness between Mother and
a co-heiress, Helen Bailey, the
estate was divided. Mother used
to return frozen and thrilled from
her property disputes, and I, know-
ing nothing of the rights and
wrongs, would half-perversely con-
fuse Helen Bailey with Helen of
Troy and harden my mind against
the monotonous' parti pris of
Mother's voice.
"Shortly after our move to Bos-
ton in 1924, a score of unwanted
Myers portraits was delivered to
our house on Revere Street. These
were later followed by 'their
dowry'--four moving vans groan-
Russell Gregory received
his B. A. in English from the,
University.

ing with heavy Edwardian furni-1
ture. My father began to receive
his first quarterly payments from
the Mason - Myers Julian - Jamesj
Trust Fund, sums 'not grand
enough to corrupt us,' Mother ex-
plained, 'but sufficient to prevent
Daddy from being entirely at the
mercy of his salary.' The i TrustI
sufficed: our lives became tan-
talized with possibilities, and my
father felt encouraged to take* the
risk-a small one in those boom:
years-of resigning from the Navy
on the gamble of doubling his in-
come in business."
But it is in poetry that Lowell
has accomplished most. His four
portrait-poems on Ford Madox
Ford, .George Santayana, Delmore
Schwartz and Hart Crane, are'
acutely appropriate to their sub-1
Sects. They are perceptive criticisml
and, consequently, moving elegies.
These are clearly writers for whom!
Lowell has a gentle, human ad-j
miration, orthodoxy or heresy not-
withstanding. In "For George San-
tayana" Lowell writes --
"In the. heydays of 'forty-five
bus-loads of souvenir-
deranged
G.I.'s and officer-professors
of philosophy
came crashing through your
cell,
puzzled to find you still alive,
free-thinking Catholic infidel,
stray spirit, who'd found
the Church too good to be
believed.
Later I used to dawdle
past Circus and Mithraic
Temple
to Santo Stefano grown
paper-thin'
like you from waiting. . .
There at the monastery
hospital,
you wished those geese-girl
sisters wouldn't bother
their heads and yours by
praying for your soul:
'There is no God and Mary
is His Mother'" .
-a kind of poetry that suggests
he has looked again at William.
Carlos Williams' metrical magic,
that he has earned, at no small
suffering, to ask
Ought I to regret my
seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing
Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic
statement,
telling off the state and
president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the
bull pen
beside a Negro boy with
curlicues
of marijuana in his hair."
AND, AT NO LESS sacrifice, to
answer himself with the lines,
"A car radio bleats,
'Love, O careless Love .
I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each
blood cell,
as if my hand were at its
throat . ..
I myself am hell;
nobody's here-"
which comments strikingly on the

V 4JGU l' l.AiJC 4-O'1
h.l r

t
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"* .

brilliant sonnet, "Words for Hart
Crane":
"When the Pulitzers showered
on some dope
or screw who flushed our dry
mouths out with soap,
few peoplewould consider why
I took
to stalking sailors, and
scattered Uncle Sam's
phoney gold-plated laurels to
the birds.
Because I knew my Whitman
like a book,
stranger in America, tell my
country; I,
Catullus redivivus, once the
rage
of the Village and Paris, used
to play my role
of homosexual, wolfing the
stray lambs
who hungered by the
Place de la Concorde.
-My profit was a pocket with
a hole.
Who asks for me, the Shelley
of my age,
must lay his heart out for my
bed and board."
The Lowell of "Lord Weary's Cas-
tle" would not have written that
poem.
The last group of fifteen poems
gives the book its title. Here, more
forcefully than before, one ad-
mits the parallel between Yeats
and Lowell, for who else has suc-
ceeded in this century in both co-
ceiving and executing a poem in
the grand manner? With a bare
simplicity of self that lacks self-
consciousness, with counter-point-
ed and crossed rhythms, in a
language that is the colloquial
transfigured until the simplest
words take on a rare luminous
qdality, Lowell's "My Last After-
noon with Uncle Devereux Wins-
low" bears comparsion with Yeats'
"Ancestral Houses."
"My Last Afternoon" is surer-
handed than the earlier "The
Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket,"
and far more beautiful. It has an
ease and precision which proclaim
a poet who sees history as some-
thing contained and summed up
in himself, a poet whose art is high
without inflation and is carefully
sustained through a long poem.
", .. I was five and a half.
My formal pearl gray shorts
had been worn for three
minutes.
* , *
My Uncle was dying at
twenty-nine.
'You are behaving like
children,'
said my Grandfather,
when my Uncle and Aunt left
their three baby
daughters,
and sailed for Europe on a
last honeymoon
I cowered in terror.
J wasn't a child at all--
unseen and all-seeing, I was
Agrippina
in the Golden House of
Nero. ..
(Concluded on Page 15)
Clairvoyance
(Continued from Page 2)
dreaming of a relative at the mo-
ment that relative is dying
and all fail to tell a competent
witness of the dream before learn-
ing of the actual death.
Only. 80 letters could be en-
dorsed as "worth following up,"
Mrs. Dale said, and the follow-up.
conducted through correspond-
ence, reduced the number to 20.
If only eight or 10 viable accounts
turn up in a year, the Society be-
lieves it has accomplished some-
thing, she continued, because
through the accumulation of in-
formation from similar societies
throughout the world considerable
information is gained.
These phenomena have been
classed by most as 'strange' and

then completely discounted as a
hoax. However, Dr. J. B. Rhine of
Duke University has conducted
scientific research on the out-
posts of consciousness. His find-
ings have "established proof that
Jnan is something more than a
physical being - not, therefore,
dependent wholly upon his human
brain and physical senses for his
perception, knowledge and devel-
opment," a pamphlet published
by the Virginia Beach organiza-
tion said.
Can these phenomena be true?
Onec an nnlv wnnder - .

By THOMAS TURNER
" WANT To Live in America,"
Manhattan - dwelling Puerto
Ricans sing in Broadway's "West
Side Story." And in real life, half
a million Puerto Ricans have come
to this country.
But the traffic is two-way, and
ones who return have transplanted
to booming Puerto Rico one of
west-side New York's biggest
headaches: teenage gangs and in-
creasing juvenile crime. ,
Walls in every section of San
Juan, the island's capital, bear
evidence of the gangs' existence.
They've used stores, residences,
schools and even churches to mark
off their "territories" with their
signatures in paint.
The Lions, The Viceroys, The
Nomads, The Diggers, The Cos-
sacks, The Daltons and so on.
THIS widespread painting is re-
cent, according to San Juan
residents, having developed in the
last year or so. And the startling
upswing in juvenile crime as a
whole has occurred in the same
period.-
In fiscal 1956-57, police inter-
vened in 3,292 cases involving mi-
nors (under 18 years old). In 1957-
58, the total rocketed to 8,167.
Better than a third of these
Thomas Turner, a re ident
of Puerto Rico, describes the
transplanting of New York's
juvenile delinquency problem
to that small southern island.
Turner is acting editor of The
Michigan Daily.

Puerto Rico's TE
Caribbean Island Combats
'West Side Story's' Problem

cases (38.5 per cent) coricern
serious crimes: murder and vo
untary homicide, involuntaj
homicide, rape, armed robber
breaking and entering, theft an
automobile theft.
CRIME as a whole increas
only 16 per cent for the perio
the newspaper El Mundo point
out in a front-page article in N
vember, and at present grow
rates, juvenile offenses in the ser
bus crime group will "eventual
compare with similar crimes con
mitted by adults."
Police Superintendent Ram
Torres Braschi, quoted in the san
article, attributed the mushroom
ing delinquency rate to "a sicl
ness largely produced by the d
terioration of our cultural values
He said he was rather "preo
cupied" than "alarmed" by ti
problem, since organizations su
as the Children's Commission ar
the Police Athletic League we
doing such good work in the are
Only the next set of police st
tistics will provide an adequa
basis for substantiating or refu
ing the superintendent's cautio
optimism. But there are certain
factors involved in juvenile d
linquency other than those it
mediately reparable by you
work.
For example, the head of t
Family Relations Division of t
Children's Court in San Juan, r
ports that most of those broug
before the court are 13-15 yea
old, and three-fourths of th
do not attend school.
SHE POINTED out that this
both a cause and an effect

ena ge Gangs
juvenile delinquency. In some
cases the young offenders are not
in school because of lack of par-
ental concern or because of school
crowding, but in other cases be-
cause they had been expelled.
ed Educational .authorities must
l- act to alleviate this situation, she.
ry said, but she went on to charac-
ry, terize San Juan's juvenile delin-
nd quency situation as "not grave."
Since these statements last fall,
however, 'juvenile crime has con-
;d tinued to increase. Each week the
d, newspapers have carried new stor-
ed ies of gang activity.
o- In November, for example. The
th Cossacks and Nomads engaged in
ri- a "rumble," or fight with switch
ly blades, stones, clubs, and at least
m- one revolver. Over 100 youths were
reported involved.
on The next week, six Nomads were
me apprehended outside the juvenile
m- home, trying to free three of their
;k- comrades with a hacksaw.
e- And in December, the leader of
a gang called The Volares was
c- shot and killed by a policeman,
;he whom he had attacked with a
c1h knife.
,nd
re IN BETWEEN such spectacular
ea. outbreaks, dozens of lesser in-
a- cidents occurred, including at one
ate point three stonings of police in
t- one week.,
us Measures taken to fight the
ly under-age crime wave have in- G
de- cluded expansion of the police
m-- force, legislation enabling youths
.th to be tried as adults for certain
crimes, and a nine o'clock curfew
he for youths 14 years old or young-
he er.
re- Whether or not these measures
ht will be sufficient to check Puerto
ars Rico's rising juvenile delinquency
ese is as yet uncertain. Whatever the
outcome of the battle, it is cer-
tain that the island Common-
is wealth is undergoing real Amer-
of ican-style growing pains.

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Greenwich Village in Its Heyday:
The Improper Bohemians

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ing about.

FATHER'S DAY GIFTS

THE IMPROPER BOHEMIANS:
A Recreation of Greenwich Vil-
lage in Its Heyday. By Alleni
Churchill. Dutton. $5.y
LOOKING over the distinguished
company occupying the plat-
form at National Institute of Arts
and Letters ceremonies a year
ago, Malcolm Cowley noticed that1
every single person had been atE
one time a resident of Greenwich
Village.
It is with this persuasive ob-
servation that Churchill ends his
exciting book. But to begin the
name-throwing which is an amaz-
ing part of his account, he goes
back to 1910, the start of the two
decades of the Village's heyday.
Mrs. Edward Dodge,'who became
the friend of the Steins in Flor-
ence and today's Mabel Dodge
Luhan, lived at 23 Fifth Ave.
Among those she entertained
were Carl Van Vechten, Jo David-
son, Lincoln Steffens, Walter
Lippman, Hutchins Hapgood, Max
Eastman, Frank Harris, Margaret
Sanger, Harry Kemp, Alan Seeger,
Amy Lowell, Emma Goldman and
Big Bill Haywood.
A DECADE or so later, the people
who lived on this "Left Bank
of the United States" as Churchill
rightly calls it included Sherwood
Anderson, Willa Cather, Theodore
Dreiser, Reginald Marsh, John
Sloan, William Glackens, George
Luks, Carl Ruggles and Edgardj
Varese, who lives there still.
John Reed, Mabel Dodge, Edna
St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill
and Maxwell Bodenheim were the
denizens whose lives are told in
fullest detail here, and who en-
joyed or suffered crucial years in
their careers in the shadow of
Washington Arch and the neigh-
borhood of Washington Square.
W. G. Rogers is art editor
for The Associated Press.

But it was "enjoyed" more than
"suffered." Rents were cheap;
they drank tea-yes, tea-and ate
modestly and danced in the Mad
Hatter, Crumperie, Samovar, Black
Parrot, Mouse Trap, Pollywooge.
And no one had inhibitions.
In later years it got rougher;
there would be the Village mayor-
ess who : danced nude, and the
pitiable end of Maxwell Boden-
heim.
CHURCHILL describes the per-
sonal idiosyncracies, the wild
parties, the love affairs, the quar-
rels, the accomplishments and the
failures of a horde of creative and
near-creative men and women.
They wrote and painted, they
lived and loved, they drank, danced
and made merry madly. For people
who knew the glamorous Village

and also for unlucky people who
didn't, this is the grand essential
book.
Robert Frost used to argue, and
no doubt still does, that the Vil-
lage did not produce, it was sterile.
Perhaps it was just a period of
incubation. In the pages of this
book you do not find Frost, Faulk-
ner, Hemingway, Wolfe, even
Fitzgerald.
Churchill estimates the Village's
"two main contributions to Ameri-
can culture are to be found in the
masses and in the Provincetown
Players." Perhaps he might have
added the Anderson-Heap Little
Review which among other things
kept on printing Joyce's "Ulys-
ses" almost as fast as the post
office burned it up.
-W. G. Rogers

I

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SIT ORAGE
of- BIKES

EAST MEETS WEST n an air
tied with obi bow ... the bibf

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11

at

CAMPUS BIKE
and TOY

217 South Main

514 E. Williams

NO 3-7125

....

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