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March 01, 1936 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1936-03-01

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-AINDAV, TviNE..cit i,

Youthful Poet Hangs Hat With
Leftists In Fine First Volume





Patchen. Random House. $2.00.
The average adherent to a revolu-
tionary cause is often marked by an
emotional state whose symptoms do
not range far from those common to
hysteria. He appears to be contin-
ually on the defensive and expresses
his attitude through what is collo-
quially known as "griping." In our
midst some of these "gripers" have
filled news columns and student ears
with frantic cries of "oppression,"
"fascism" and that overworked epi-
thet "reactionary." Most of these
young people who have attained the
public eye do not seem to find in
their radical tenets any integrating
strength to make for stability, with-
out which they are unable to view
their position with perspective and
are consequently unaware of the aes-
thetic appeal their principles might
offer to a confused and bewildered
Kenneth Patchen, as revealed by
his poetry of the leftward movement,
is scarcely one of these. He has found
a certain dignity in his political con-
victions which gives validity to hs
subtle expresson of their meaning
to humankind. His first group of
poems, each titled by a phrase from
Lincoln's Gettysburg address, convey
a thoughtful and prophetic compre-
hension of the responsibilities that
might fall upon the shoulders of a
successful revolutionist. In the poem,
"when in the course of human
events," he warns:
"Do not destroy. They built a world
we could not use;
They planned a course that ended
in disaster.
Their time is up. The curtain's
down. We take power.
We're sorry they left so little."
Although the thought is expressed by
means of an idiom more native to
the English left-wing poet, W. H. Au-
den, its statement reveals the in-,r
tegrity of the artistic perception more!I
originally expressed in the other'
poems of the volume.
So soft and pliable and thin is this
light weight surgical hose that it
can be worn under sheer chiffon
without embarrassment ... brings
comfort to tired aching limbs.

In "Leaflet (One)" Patchen stands
as no "party" Communist, though a
reading of his poems indicates that
his sympathy lies with that group
and that his insistence upon the need
for a complete revolution is based
on its principles.
Too frequently contemporary poets
and novelists have despaired of a be-
lief in humanity. Often, too, one is
likely to assume that radicals think
only in terms of masses to be fed and
employed, implying thereby that at
best all talk of human grandeur and
individual courage is sheer nonsense
in the twentieth century. It is good to
find Patchen, in "A Letter to Young
Men," writing against war and con-
cluding his statement by reaffirming
the old belief in the endurance of hu-
man values:
"When the bayonets are dearer than
In all the stalls of earth; when your
Needs you asking Why do naked
good bodies
Go up like stale rockets O proud
bloody flowers
Growing up in History's garden
Break it
up young men their guns are
At you are pointed at all the mad
Grandeur which killers can never
make die."
* * *
A reading of this volume will reveal
poems more markedly personal al-
though never devoid of the social
implications oi numan experience in
our time. Patchen possesses a dis-
tinctive lyric sense through which he
is able to evoke the mood and in-
tensity of beauty without ever sac-
rificing truth to achieve an illusion
of what he writes about. Not yet
twenty-five years old his work in-
dicates a mature outlook gained
through the years since he was forced
by economic circumstance to leave the
University of Wisconsin as an under-
graduate. His skill as a poet is rep-
resented at present not so much by
its success as the ambition to master
difficult and varied methods. The
vi'dlity of these poems piomises
that full achievement of his poetic
technique will not find the sensitiv-
ity and spirit of the poet dwindled
or exhausted.

Soviet World Is Seen
Through Eyes Of
Tchernavin, translated by N. Alex-
ander, New York, Dutton. $2.50.
(Dept. of Russian Literature)
Whew! The resentment against the
Soviets stored up in this book!
For example "-The G.P.U.* car 'the
Black Crow' hoots hideously outside
the prison gates bringing new vic-
tims." "I wanted to go abroad, I
wanted to escape, never to return
to this misery, squalor, filth, horror
--" p. 252. The book vividly pictures
the psychology of a member of a so-
cial class that in Russia at least
has had its day and is passing into
oblivion. If one wished to learn how
adherents of that class think and feel,
here is the place to find it.
The old Russian world in which
wealth and pedigree dominated and
the new world in which labor domi-
nates are utterly incompatible. Their
ideals are leagues apart, and it is
quite impossible for a person brought
up in either class to write an ob-
jective account of contemporary Rus-
sian society. The title of the book
seems misleading. We should expect
a general account of the obligations,
opportunities and activities of women
under the Soviets. What we find is
an account of the experiences of
about a dozen women. Some are de-
scribed vaguely as hypocritical, dis-
honest, haughty, or slovenly Soviet
officials, while the rest are women
who, being unable to adjust their
activities to the changed conditions,
lived unhappily or miserably.
The book is superficial. There is
no attempt to discuss the powerful
economic forces that have almost
completed the destruction of one form
of social organization and are rapidly
building a new one. There is no dis-
cussion of the fact that the revolu-
tion was an elemental uprising of
a people who had been for centuries
starved, frozen, imprisoned, flogged
and slain - an uprising against the
class which oppressed them and which1
is now bitterly complaining because
it in turn is suffering in consequence'
of the sufferings which it itself in-
flicted upon the proletariat. It hasj
been said that "Though the mills of1
the Gods grind slowly, yet they grind1
exceeding small." If there is occa-
sional mention of the self-sacrifices
of many Soviet women who even
gave up their lives in their efforts
to achieve their ideals, occasion is
also taken to disparage their actions.
In short the book presents a very
one-sided picture. Of course the de-
struction of an entire class in society
is a sad sight, but a revolution is
not a bridge party, and the losers
always suffer intenselyl. "Time
marches on.''
*NOTE: G.P.U. ar the secret police. !1

Literary Quarterly Makes Bow:
Devoted To Work In Progress

cures can choose selections which
stand by themselves, apart from the
books from which they were taken,
it will not be much more than a
textbook on directions in modern lit-
erature, with examples. It would be,
interesting to see iow forthcoming
issues meet the problems presented
by its policy.

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Dial 2-1013

SIGNATURES, Work in Progress.
Volume 1, Number 1. Edited by
John H. Thompson and John M.
Brinnin, Detroit.
(Editor of Contemporary)
It is significant that the best writ-
ing in the first issue of Signatures,
"a magazine devoted to work in
progress," should be the short stories
and the two excerpts from novels
which are most like short stories in
that they have some degree of unity'
and completeness . Obviously a mag-
azine publishing selections from
forthcoming books, while offering an
indication of the trend of contempo-
rary writing, would have to meet
the difficulty of presenting sections
which would be somewhat sufficient
in themselves Most of the excerpts
in the first issue are too incomplete
to be satisfying - some of them too
brief to be even tantalizing.
The two chapters of Kay Boyle's
The Intruders and the chapter from
In the Icy Waters, a first novel, by
Edward McSorley are fairly complete
in themselves. The selection from
The Intruders is the best piece of
writing in the magazine, and, unlike
most of the other portions of novels,
I it makes one want to read more. The
McSorley piece is rather badly writ-
ten, but it presents an amusing and1
farily restrained portrayal of a group
of literary pinks. Katherine Anne
Porter's unfinished story, Noon Wine,
is promising but the sections given are
so meagre that it can be judged only
on a basis of its promises. The
Labored Technique
Clouds His
FOUR WALLS.By Laurence Whistler.
Macmillan. $1.25.
Laurence Whistler, a young Eng-
lishman, has received an award
called the King's Medal for his vol-
ume of poems, Four Walls. Whether
he deserved anything like what is
apparently national recognition is
very doubtful. He is neither a par-
ticularly skillful technician nor has
he anything remarkable to offer in
the way of content.
He is, in the first place, much im-
pressed by love. There can be no
valid objection to what is, after all,
only a healthy interest, but Mr. Whis-
tler doesn't have very much to con-
tribute on the subject.
"I would deny to any other lover
That paradise could be in the
mere kiss
Of lips to lips and heart to heart
' And just bare bodies in a dark-
ened room."
I am not inclined to say that that is

two short stories, by Sean O'Faolain
and James T. Farrell, are good,
O'Faolain's story of the intrusion of
unpleasant realities into the happi-
ness of a newly married couple
through the conversation of a cyn-
ical old priest being perhaps the
Mr. Farrell's account of the O'Fla-
herty family fromA World I Never
Made, however, is not worth much;
and, while the bits from Dorothy
Richardson's Clear Horizon are quite
finished, they are trivial and man-
nered. The Dahlberg novel Bitch
Godless is written in prose that is
meant to be vigorous and masculine
but succeeds mainly in being affected.
It is full of supposedly unprintable
words and such sentences as "He
phewed up his lips against the slept-
in salt perspiring nose which was
clubbing the blowsy supine face and
swiveled his neck leftwards and up
to a shelf."
It is hard to judge whether the
pieces presented fulfill the purpose
of the magazine in representing
trends in present-day literature. It
is unfortunate that contemporary
poetry is not represented - and odd,
considering Eda Lou Walton's state-
ment in the critical survey, at the
back of the magazine -that the
!poets are doing better than the prose
writers at present. Probably the
magazine represents trends in writing
pretty well, although it is safe to
say that it does not represent the
best in those trends. Unless Signa-





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When You Think of







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A twelfth century tr
beards has just been publis
ing with the subject in r
ious ways. It was written
tercian abbot and is in


BMO KS--Up-to the -Minu

either very real or very well put. It
is simply pretty, not very original,
)S and youthful.
eatise on The larger number of Mr. Whis-
hed, deal- tler's poems are expressions of the
many cur- rather slight and disordered emotional
by a cis- reactions of a young man, delivered
Latin. with an air of extreme portentous-
ness. The poet is only occasionally
willing to admit that his pronounce-
ments are not of the most tremen-
dous importance. When, in several
very short pieces, he momentarily
forgets that the world is hanging on
his words, Mr. Whistler manages
to produce some quite pleasing poetry.
There is a longish poem, "The Bur-
ial," which, by the use of a separate
title-page, is set apart from the rest
of the volume, possibly to indicate
that it possesses a certain amount of
significance. It is in this poem that
3.50 Mr. Whistler's style - studied, over-
2.00 loaded, and making up for a lack of
2.50 real originality by the injection at
2.50 frequent and almost regular intervals
. 2.50 of strenuous innovations in the use
2.75 or words --gets really seriously in I
the way. The poem, striving pain- I
fully in the direction of something
like epic proportions, is obviously con-
cerned with the state of the modern
world. That I deduce from a num-
ber of references to the communists.
I read the poem three times. I don't
know what it is about or what Mr.
Whistler's opinion is in regard to
whatever it is about. I refuse to,
concede, at the moment, that the
fault lies with me.


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