Periodic cycles of depression and optimism seem to be the rule in the Harvard literary realm. Last year was marked by a low-point in the graph: Heywood Broun's pessimism about our post-war writing, supported by half-a-dozen other aspersions almost made us believe that there was in fact no longer a cult of authorship in the University. This year such incidents as the publication of "Eight More Harvard Poets" restore some of our confidence, and makes the Yale-and-Football bogey seem a pale ghost. Sixteen poets worthy of the title in the few years since the War would be a respectable garner in itself: and these collections make no pretense to all-inclusiveness.
While the second eight have been preparing in college and beyond the first eight and their contemporaries have continued writing. Several have allied themselves to the young experimental magazines of verse that have become numerous lately: some, like Mr. Ausiander, are making themselves known in the older periodicals. Mr. Robert Hillyer, whose fifth volume of poems is now on the press has won a high name-in the critical world, and as substantial recognition as any among the younger American poets." He is already above and far beyond the University group, yet still close enough to his undergraduate days to be claimed by the present college generation. His classmate, Mr. Dos Passos, has issued two volumes of prose and one of verse which have earned him wide notice, at least as an earnest experimenter. Mr. McLane, whose student days are still more recent, has three books of verse to his credit. This is the roll of poets alone --and a partial one at that. It indicates no renaissance, perhaps, but I gives evidence of a healthy, normal growth.
The members of the Poetry Society who have sponsored the two octets have worked wisely; and Brentano's, in publishing them, has done service to college as well as to public and publisher. Whatever verdict Time may pass on individuals in the collection, the idea is sound. The knowledge that there may be opportunity for publication gives a genuine stimulus to poetic efforts in the University; and the series in the hands of the public becomes both a specimen and a justification of student poetry. And there is little doubt that Time will see fit to adopt at least one or two of these neophytes as her own.