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July 08, 1972 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1972-07-08

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Saturday, July 8, 1972

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

POETRY
Fre eing the AlIligzator4'

SPEECH ACTS & HAPPEN-
INGS, by Robert Vas Dias
Bobbs-Merrill, $2.45, paper.
OUR WORD: GUERRILLA
POEMS FROM LATIN
AMERICA, translated by Ed-
ward Dorn and Gordon Brother-
ston, Grossman & Cape Goliard,
$2.95 paper.
By LINDA SILVERMAN
If there is a home for aging
Burger Chef managers some-
where in this land, Robert Vas
Dias would be a good poet-in-
residence there, for he thrives on
Resilty in America. His latest
70-poem volume compels us to
re-think the nature of car wash-
es, AAA, Grade B Viking movies,
electricians:
But did she know?-whether or
not
she was in love?-whether or
not
she was really in love with a
real
electrician?
I am impressed with the soft-
ness of these poems, they are
charming and refreshing, even
unpretentious. But still, they lack
the intensity a, poet should be
able to trap in a. single line.
Instead, they are like sculptures
in spaghetti sauce.
He is an anti-intellectual who
can say,
This poem goes well with
ham & swiss
on a hard roll with mustard
& draft beer on
a Saturday afternoon . . .
or
This is a genuine used poem
last year's model poen
shirt off someone's back poem.
He is a poet with a sense of
humor, who doesn't seem to
have a sense of darkness or
despair. He is too flip, too sane.
I pay taxes, support highways,
I've been had by ethical drug
firms,
I have ingested Giardia lanr-
blia in western towns
like unto a sewer, I have even
followed directions.
Jerome Rothenberg c 1 a i m s
these are poems with "a high
reality quotient." Whatever that
means.
When he tries to get serious
(section on "Space Poems"), he
loses the earthy density of the
Americana reality poems. We
get lines like:
... speak
of strange middle America I
see behind clouds
smelling of burning alfalfa
somewhere

in Kansas: Nebraska: the
moon: silos are
million-year obelisks.
Linking silos to obelisks strikes
me as phony poetical-Kansas
and Egypt are far-fetched sis-
ters. He might as well have had
Cleopatra's barge floating down
the Kansas River. (He is netter
off sticking to recycling, sub-
way, or carwash poems.)
Other experiments, his 15
"Siji of Situation" are imitations
of Korean poetry; siji means
"melody of the times" with a
fixed prosody of 43-45 syllables.
In the rush hour she holds
several blue peacock
feathers:
I am trying to catch her eye
enticed by competitors.
Soon I shall dance and fan
my many amazing eyes.
Does Vas Dias mean to write
poetry of the mundane? "I am
the five pounds of garbage I
dispose of . . ." would be a
good line for a billboard, a.
catchy phrase to read while
traveling, an ad for Madison
Avenue.
It is alarming to find all the
darkness left out of these poems
(as in advertisements). Where
are the odd folks, ghettos, strav-
ing children, dope pushers, My
Lai's, miners? Where is there
any darkness?
There is no sense of tension
or struggle in most of the lines.
The Object dominates and the
"I" in the poem doesn't feel real,
but plastic. The poetic outcomes
seem formulaic and predeter-
mined. They are not creations,
but recreations.
The outside, the veneer of
Things is described, but the poet
never really goes in, never pene-
trates. It is like a two-week va-
cation by Greyhound Bus or a
postcard of the Grand Canyon.
While these poems are an
earthy relief from the heavy-
weights ,they don't take us
straight to the river, like Berry-
man or Lowell or Plath.
The intensity of personal vi-
sion, hot engines, and wheels are
restored in the gun-point poems
of, by, and for a band of South
American guerrillas.
I don't want to see you
in my entrails
the day they cut me open
in the countryside
and leave my body undo r"the
sun
wrote Javier Heraud, a y o u n g
Peruvian Who won anational
poetry prize, and ended shot to
death in the middle of the river

Madre de Dios (Mother of God .
As he put it,
Look it isn't that I want
to leave life back there-
but I must follow a path
that death is known to stalk.
It is obvious he has closen the
path. And that is the difference.
Van Dias' path has been safe;
that is what he chose. And be-
cause of his choice, ne took us
into the car washes, not the
jungle, not the ghetto, not the
war.
Another poet, Otto Castillo,
was shot to death after being
tortured for four days:
Let's take a walk Guatemala,
I'm coming along . . .
I'll die to give you life
and your face will be on the
bright horizon
in every boll of the flowers
born of my bones.
I am aware of the heavy allitera-
tion, even the old metaphor. But
it is the love-for-country coming
through this poem that makes it
intense and alive.
Che Guevara wrote clean, sim-
ple poems threaded with tropical
imagery of sun paths, the alli-
gator:
You said the sun would rise.
Let's go
along those unmapped paths
to free the green alligtor you
love.
Egads! Zap! One ferocious meta-
phor-a green alligator -'o stand
for that whole unchainin of
Cuba from its sugarmn daddys.
When the heart is in the right
place-not on objects, but on
subjects (men are still working
on surivival, remember'? - the
metaphor/symbol gets infested
with its passion and works (lit-
erally, gives off energy. gene-
rates passion to someone else.
etc.).
These guys talk"tough okay;
note the pistol-packing verbs
(sapped, hopping) in the follow-
ing vs. Vas Dias (ingested, fol-
lowed):
Don't ever think our integrity
can be sapped
by those decorated fleas
hopping with gifts
we want their rifles, their
bullets and a rock
nothing else.
This again was Che. No way
could he have come near a Trip
Tik; thatis the passive, indolent,
American, decadent, affluent
way. Che wrote his own, as every
poet (not just revolutionary)
must.
Mr. Rothenberg and Mr. Vas
Dias need to read a real reality
CINEMA

booksboo s

poem; as Luis Nieto, a 62-year-
old guerrilla, put it down:
Now look at the men
struck dead by the hired guns
their parted lips seem still
to be smiling at freedom
Come now and see
those poor men shot
by twenty guns whose barrels
looked on shocked and som-
nambulent ...
There they are their chests
cool
with the black decor of
blood ...
and may the everlasting
volcanoes
stand guard over their graves
So no talk of tears now
with closed hands and armed
chests

turn, and circle like lions
because these dead turn
within us.
When another guerrilla asks
"for a, sheet of Cuban tears/to
cover our guerrilla bones," he is
full of the pain, passion, and in-
tensity of the Real. The meta-
phor is created, not recycled.
We are, after all, living and
working in a network of beggars
with skin peeling off their knees,
flies, heat, not just orange
groves and rain forests. I think
the thing a poet can do is: (t)
live in the Jungle himself; (2)
hunt down the images/meta-
phors/symbols/poems the tribe
needs to survive despite the pain
it causes; (3) work out the
struggle on the written page
without letting the paper have
more reality than the alligator-
out-there.

Richard Schickel: Reviewing for 'Life'

Richard Schickel, SECOND
SIGHT: NOTES ON S O M E
MOVIES 1965-1970. Simon &
Schuster, $8.95.
By TOM GREENWALD
Since 1965, Richard Schickel
has been reviewing movies for
Life magazine; Second S i g h t:
Notes on Some Movies 1965-1970
is a collection of his reviews. Af-
ter reading his work, it is easy
to see why he has done so well
at Life. He seems the perfect re-
Today's writers...
Linda Silverman is a poet
and a creative writing instruc-
tor.
Tom Greenwald teaches a
course on contemporary film at
York University in Toronto,
viewer for middle America; he
is modest, decent, industrious
and does not employ any cumber-
some ae. thetics which might
raise the ire of his intended aud-
ience.
To be sure, Richard Schickel
likes movies. Which means, he
likes a lot of movies, many of

ly unfair to compare his work
to the superior work of o t h e r
film critics. Renata Adler, who
reviewed films for The New York
Times, attempted to judge films
according to their level of am-
bition and it would, perhaps, be
wise to judge the work of Rich-
ard Schickel according to his le-
vel of ambition. Schickel con-
siders himself a movie reviewer
and, as such, he is much better
at his task than the Judith Crists
and Rex Reeds of the world. He
seems primarily concerned with
American films, partly because
of the audience he is writing for,
partly because of his own inter-
est and taste. He is an unabash-
ed defender of the Hollywood
motion picture industry though
he is not blind to the shortcom-
ings of the industry. He realizes
that New York is not the centre
of the universe and worries that
the trendy trash that often com-
es out of Hollywood is alienating
potential moviegoers, people who
do not have the wide range of
films available to them that New
Yorkers do. He is not anti-
foreign film but he seldom seems
as excited by a good foreign
film as he does by a slick Hol-

enthusiasm for the home grew u
product.
Schickel comes through as an
immensely likeable human being.
One gets the feeling that he is
not as good at his trade as he
would like to be and that this
bothers him, as though, if he
only had more time to think be-
fore writing, he would be a bet-
ter reviewer. At the end of many
of his reviews. he has included
re-evaluations of his opinions. He
is not the least reticent about
admitting that he misjudged cer-
tain films or that given reviews
were poorly written. His hon-
esty about his own shortcomings
is one of the most refreshing as-
pects of the book.
He is not a great writer by
any means but he manages to
invest his reviews with enough
concrete detail to give the read-
er some idea of what the movie
is about without spoiling the.
surprises which might be in st-re
for a potential viewer. After
reading Schickel, one does not
have the feeling that one has al-
ready seen the movie and this
is a definite plus for a movie re-
viewer. This present collection
includes over eighty reviews,
everything from Morgan to The

ickel praises such obvious ,urk-
eys as The Forbin Project and
Planet of the Apes but he does
recognize quality when he sees
it in the films of Bunuel, Berg-
man, Antonioni, et al. Schickel's
opinions are not of the intrusive
sort; the reader can take them
or leave them alone according to
his own taste. Unfortunately,
good reviews by Richard Schick-
el do not really mean very
much, mainly because they are
so common. But the careful read-
er will have much less trouble
adjusting to Schickel's peculiar-
ities than, say, Paulene Kael's.
Predictability in this case is a
slight virtue.
Schickel does have one habit
that is extremely bothersome. In
a weird sort of way, he seems
fixated on youth culture movies.
Wisely, he is anti-youth cult. Un-
wisely, he devotes " an unneces-
sary amount of energy and crit-
ical bombardment in his attempt
to discredit such films.. Why
bother? Even the kids stay away
from most of the movies sup-
posedly designed just for them,
so what exactly is Richard's
problem. Curiously enough,
Schickel's level of taste has not
risen much above the adolescent

ing reserved for the Hollywood
genre movies which closely re-
semble the films of his youth.
Is he mad at the kids because
they do not seem to want to go
to the movies that he liked when
he was their age? In hisnoe on
the review of Wild in the Streets,
he acknowledges that the major-
ity of the younger generation are
as stolid as ever but then goes
on to say that "nihilists" is "pro-
bably too dignified a term for a
generation of hitch-hikers, drop-
outs and pot-heads." And in his
review of the Rolling Stones'
film Gimme Shelter, he descends
to the level of character assassi-
nation. Discussing Mick Jagger,
Schickel sounds like a hippie
discussing Ed Muskie: inaccur-
ate, petty, whiny, and just plain
stupid.
While Second Sight is hardly
must reading for serious stu-
dents of film, Schickel is a bet-
ter than average reviewer with
a fair to middling batting aver-
age. It is difficult to get excited
about this collection, one way
or the cther. I almost have the
feeling that Schickel, himself
would agree. That is one reason
why the man seems more inter-
esting than the reviewer. But for
inost people, that will probably

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