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June 10, 1967 - Image 8

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Michigan Daily, 1967-06-10
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4 * *

f

a

Dickey' s Decade

(Continued from page one)
poets catch only a few glimpses."
Dickey suggests some of the reasons
why his work suddenly became so
much better:
I began to conceive of something
I called-doubtless misleadingly-
the "open" poem: a poem which
would have none of the neatness of
most of those poems we call
"works of art" but would have the
capacity to involve the reader in it,
in all its imperfections and impuri-
ties, rather than offering him a
(supposedly) perfected and perfect
work for contemplation, judgment
and evaluation. I was interested
most of all in getting an optimum
'presentational immediacy," a
compulsiveness in the presentation
of the matter of the poem that
would cause the reader to forget
literary judgements entirely and
simply experience. I experimented
with short lines sonme more and,
eventually, with putting several of
these together on the same physi-
cal plane to make up what I called
the "split line," in which spaces
between the word groups would
take the place-of punctuation.
The discovery of his "split" line
has been as important as Dickey
makes it out to be. In All his first-
rate poems he makes use of this dis-
tended line. "The Firebombing"
was Dickey's first poem in this new
form and is the finest poem in
Buckdancer's Choice. It has also
rapidly become the poem critics
talk about when they mention Dick-
ey (M. L. Rosenthal for one, discuss-
es it briefly in his new volume The
New Poets). "The Firebombing"is a
poem about a man . reexamining
experiences as a pilot involved in
the bombing of Japan twenty years
ago. It is a long poem which care-
fully describes the torture the
speaker has felt since the war as a
result of his ambivalent feelings to-
ward the bombing-the horror of
destroying human life and yet the
God-like pleasure of being in a posi-
tion to do so. All this is set in the
juxtaposition of the Japanese sub-
urb being bombed and the speaker's
suburban home from which he is
telling the story. "The Firebomb-
ing" is an extremely powerful and
grabbing poem. The lat few lines
give some idea of its intensity.
But it may be that I could
not
If I tried, say to any
Who livedsthere, deep in my
flames: say, in cold
Gunning sweat, as todanother
As these homeowners who are al-
ways curving
Near me down the different-
grassed street: say
-As though to the neighbor
I borrowed the hedge-clipper
from
On the darker-grassed side of the
two,
Come in, my house is yours,
come in
If you can, if you
Can pass this unfired door. It is
that I can imagine
As the threshold nothing
With its ears crackling off
Like powdery leaves,
Nothing with children of ashes,
nothing not
Amiable, gentle, well-meaning,
A little nervous for no
Reason a little worried a little
too loud
Or too easygoing - nothing I
haven't lived with
For twenty years, still nothing,
not us

American as I am, and proud of
it.
Absolution? Sentence? No mat-
ter;
Thething itself is in that.
This "split" line increases the ef-
fect of his impressionistic manner
of description and the spacing al-
lows him to speed up or slow down
his movement. The poems in this
new style become a series of flash-
es, which convey a total effect by
means of tightly connected images.
The line also produces its own spe-
cial effect, like the momentary am-
biguity often created by line breaks
such as "she touches one button at
her throat, and rigor mortis/Slith-
ers into his pockets, making every-
thing there-keys, pen and secret
love-stand up."
Poems-1957-1967 also contains
two quite recent works. One is Fall-

g, the volume which closes the
collection. We see Dickey using the
}split" line more and more, though
not giving up the older forms com-
pletely. As in Buckdancer's Choice,
however, the finest of the poems
make use of this line. The other
new entry is the poem which opens
the collection, entitled "May Day
Sermon to the Women of Gilmer
County, Georgia, By a Woman
P r e a c h e r Leaving the Baptist
Church." In it the woman tells her
female flock about the annual re-
birth of life which occurs "Each
year at this time." It is the longest
poem in the collection and proves
that even a good thing (like the
"split" line) can be overdone. It be-
comes tedious by being so very dis-
tended (just like a sermon!). As well
as having an independent place as a
work on its own;however, the "May
Day Sermon" seems to have been

specifically written to lntrodutc
this collection. It contains Dikey's
current statement of "This is where
I am and this is what I am." That is,
it shows his current development
and summarizes the material in his
previous work. Through an accept-
ance of death, the "May Day Ser-
mon" calls for a rebirth from death,
a re-awakening and a re-
experiencing. It restates Dickey's
most basic plea-that it is necessary
to live life fully and make the most
of our experiences. Although .the
"Sermon" is not a first-rate poem
on its own, it is a suitable opening
for Poems 1957-1967: the forceful,
masculine voice of James Dickey
calling our attention to this impor-
tant body of verse.
Brian Corman
Mr. Corman is a first-year graduate
student in the department of English
at The University of Chicago.

PAPERBRACK PLAYBACK

Paperback releases in the last
several months run the gamut from
the solid and sordid through the in-
sipid and opaque to the esoteric and
snide.
Penguin's fine English Library
series has again issued a well-edited
selection of important fiction-
George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, To-
bias Smollett's Humphrey Clinker,
Laurence Sterne's odd The Life and
Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and
an unexpurgated and annotated ver-
sion of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's
Travels with a delightful introduc-
tion. Censor defier Marcel Girodias'
salty potpourri The Olympia Read-
er has been legally published by
Ballantine. The Hot Gates (Har-
court) presents "occasional pieces"
by novelist William Golding. The
controversial and moving biography
Papa Hemingway by A. E.
Hotchner is out in a Bantam edi-
tion.
More poetry than usual, has ap-
peared recently. The Sonnet (Wash-
ington Square), edited by Robert
Bender and Charles Squier, antho-
logizes this fundamental and effec-
tive verse form. Scribners' has
published Words, Robert Creeley's
skilled and sensitive new volume.
Harper Square's Gallery Series
One-Poets presents photography
and -poetry-some moving, some

contrived-by young Chicagoans.
And Honey and Salt, a collection of
fresh and tender, lyrics of Carl
Sandburg, is available in a Harcourt
Edition.
Bantam has introduced a natural
science series which ranges from
simplistic to sophisticated. Titles in-
clude The Atom and Beyond by E.
Sheldon Smith, Great Ideas in Mod-

ern Sdeence edited-by Robert Marks
(c on t ains articles by, Einstein,
Plank, and Russell) and Hans Zins-
ser's delicious, erudite Rats, Lice
and History.
The Women in America, edited
by Robert Lifton (Beacon), is a col-
lection of engrossing observations
on the contemporary female by Er-
ikson, Riesman and others. In
Freud and Political Thought, (Cita-
del), Thomas Hohnson examines the
subject systematically for the first
time. And the findings of the sev-

en-year Co
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Bantam's
intelligent,
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With ex
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Young's Er
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LITE'RARY Eu-XCHANGE

Swedish

Waterlilies

Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelof,
Translated by Muriel Rukeyser &
Leif Sjoberg. Twayne Publishers,
Inc. $4.00.
Some say translation .is impossi-.
ble. If so, then the impossibility is
certainly compounded in the case of
poetry. Yet, should a poet who is
hailed as a major literary force in
his own country be relegated to ob-
scurity in other countries because
he writes in a language known to
few? Or would it be better to trans-
late, hoping that even if something
is lost, more will be conveyed?
Choosing the latter course, Ru-
keyser and Sjoberg have translated
a selection from nine of Ekelof's
volumes p ublis he d in Sweden.
Through the fortuitous circum-
stances that Swedish is conceptually
closer to English than, say, the Ori-
ental languages, combined with an
excellent and faithful translation,
much of Ekelof's rebellion against
technology and the welfare
state-often embodied in a trance-
like timelessness-comes across in
this all too small volume.
It is unfortunate that economic
limitations forced on the publisher
by the rather small book-buying
public of the USA did not permit a
bilingual edition. Had it been possi-
ble, the reader rnot only could have
seen the merits of the translation
himself,- but in all probability could
have developed a certain feeling for
the Swedish as well. Much of Eke-
lof's poetry is deceptively simple
in its eloquence, thus lending itself
particularly well to bilingual repre-
sentation:
Among Waterlilies
I have written a preface to what TI
meant to say
then crossed it out.-But still I
wish
that before darkness closes above;
me
the last of me that is seen
shall be a fist clenched among wat-
erlilles
and the last that is heard be a
word of bubbles .
from the bottom.

Bland Nackrosor
Jag har skrivit en inledning till vad
jag skulle ha sagt
men jag har strukit den.-Dock on-
skar jag
att innan morkret slar samman
overtmig
det sista som syns av mig
skall vara en knuten nave blandt
nackrosor
och det sista som hors ett ord av
bubblor
fran botten.
Of coursesuch direct translation
is impossible in many of Ekelof's
poems. This is particularly true of
En Molna-elegi, a stream-of- con-
sciousness epic of great length, that
can perhaps best be described as an
attempt to put an entire life, an en-
tire cultural awareness within the
framework of a second in the pres-
ent.
This compression of time-often
counterbalanced by elongation-
combined with the continuous in-
volvement of the self in reality (in a.
fashion not unlike that of Proust or
Joyce) is one of the central recur-
ring features in Ekelof's poetry.
Gunnar -.Ekelof is very much a
poet of our technological age, but
not contentedly so. As Sjoberg men-
tions in the introduction, Ekelof's
"dislikes the artificiality, the Ersatz
so common in our culture and han-
kers for the simplicity and joy of
certain periods, like the baroque
period of eighteenth-century Swed-
en, or Antiquity." His aversion to
the mechanized world, with its sep-
aration of man from the natural
world, is stressed over and over
again, as for instance in the follow-
ing fragment from "If You Ask
Me":
Why do you ask for an aircraft,
to travel in
Ask instead for a filter for nitrogen
a filter for carbon dioxide, hydro-
gen and other gases
Ask for a filter for all that sep-
arates us
a filter for life
Still, even in his rebellion against
the industrial world, Ekelof- does
not attempt to strike its imagery
from his poetry or to negate it; in-

stead he uses it. He turns the tech-
nical deadfalls of our Western civi-
lization (in opposition to the time-
less, nonmaterial East, which in-
spires and influences so much of
Ekelof's work) upon themselves,
producing a great self-destroying
machine of words. Death is for Eke-
lof almost the final process of hu-
manization. Technology progresses
until man reaches "Euphoria," until
the individual's end, until nothing
is left but the world of nature.
... Posthumus! Do you hear me?
The classical record spins, we must
help it over
the circular grooves where it sticks
and spins for itself
The human hit parade breaks
through. Yes Posthumus
I am siging off now.
-From "To Posthumus"
Erik Sandberg-D-ent
The Midwest Literary Review
Editors-in-chief: .w Edward W. Hearne
Bryan R. Dunlap
Executive Editor: .. David H. Richter
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Editor....... .........Jay 'Fox
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Editor..... .... ... Pat Gleason,
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Loyola Editor:........... Bill Clohesy
Minnesota Editor.......Hans Knoop
Northwestern Editor ..Fred Eychaner
New York Editor- .....Erik Sandburg
-Dimnt
Valparaiso Editor: Mary Jane Nehring
Wooster Editor ...,....Gary Houston
Circulation Manager ..Brian Corman
Editorial Staff:..... Gretchen Wood
Mary Sue Leighton
Ellen Williams
Jeanne Safer
Jean Rudd
The Midwest Literary Review, circulation 74,004,
is published six times per academic year by
The Chicago Literary Review. It is distributed
by the Michigan Daily, the Chicago Maroon, the
Illinois institute of Technofogy Technology News,
the Illinois Teacher's College (South Campus)
Tempo, the Lake Forest Stentor, the College of
Wooster Voice, and the Valparaiso Torch. Re-
print rights have been granted to the North-
wesern Daily, the Roosevelt Torch, the Minne-
sota Daily, and the Loyola News. Chief editorial
offices: 1212 East 59th. Street, Chicago, linois
60637. Phone: MI 3.4840, ext. 3265, 3266, 3269,
3270. Subscriptions: $2.50 per year. Copyright
1967 by The Chicago Literary Review. All Rights
reserved.

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Su g O utside politicalCmmn
Robertserusd-- The Accidental President . . $
Roet Sherril-h c
Reading Fiction
c Unicorn G r . . t r
Caroline Glyn-The Unicorn Girl........
Len Deighton-An Expensive Place to Die ..
Louis Ferdinand Celine-Death on t 7.5install&
ment Plan ......*.....
social Comment
Frantz Fanon- dackskin, White Masks.
Carl Becker-Beyond Alienation........
Poetry1957-1967 - -
James Dickey-Poems,
- cien Stryk, ed.--Heartland: Poets of 1
Midwest 4- . . * .- ... s
niversitv RaSy CraneThe Idea of the 1Human i es
U Lteray Criticism
ivers yeEssays.....f Ch.cag
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aCarlOglesby & Richard Shaun-Contain
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2 f MIDWEST LITERARY

REVIEW f June. 1967

June, 1967 0 MIDWEST LIT E$

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