ON THE SHELF
The Advocate is off to an unusually good start this year. The Registration Issue presents a better balanced, more suitable selection than most of its predecessors, and the writing is less pretentious and drives less for arty effects.
Stephen Spender's summer lecture on "Modern Poetry and Science" serves as an excellent lead article. Spender, one of American's leading poets, believe into the historical relationship between science and poetry. Despite the sustainedly involved nature of his sentence structure, Spender's speech makes interesting and often enlightening reading. He adheres closely to discussion of fundamentals, and discusses them in logical, chronological order.
Although he soon substitutes as his topic "Modern Poetry for the Modern World" for "Modern Poerty and Science," he amply justifies this by expounding the constant infusion of scientific method and theory into modern thought.
He concludes: "the only means of conquering that disorder of the mind and the imagination is the order of thought and imagination towards the achieving of which poetry can make a its particular contribution."
The poetry which appears in this issue of the Advocate makes absolutely no contribution towards the achieving of anything, accept perhaps further disorder. John Ciardi contributes some fairly effective images in the first verses of his "Midnight on a Side Street." The only possible excuse for the best of the poem is that Ciardi desired to finish it. A double entry by Frank O'Hara verges on the musing, but quite definitely falls short. George Montgomery passe understanding. A poem called "(poem)" concerns a letter from a girl for the first six lines. It winds up: "In the morning, the snow fell in circles, and meteors knocked at the door."
Two of the three stories are extremely well handed. Frederick English composed a stream-of-consciousness treatment of a miner psychological Trauma of a pre-adolescent school girl. Written in a style frankly derived from Faulkner, "In Dust" successfully avoids mimicry and artiness, two near constant companions of this style. An abundance of poetic images clogs the opening of the piece, but thereafter it flows smoothly and skillfully. The pace is sustained, and the denouement carried off with aplomb.
Henry Fletcher's "Mountain of Zermatt" is a simple narrative. The writing throughout is capable and in several places reaches excellence. "Late Adventure," by Frank O'Hara, suffers considerably by comparison with the other two stories. The subject matter is not well suited to the length in which it is handled. The characters are not too adroitly sketched, and an interesting idea fails to receive adequate development.
Tucked away in the middle of the issue is "Athletic problems," by William J. Bingham--excerpts from an Advocate article of 1927. The director of athletics declared at that time "that we are not interested in winning regardless of everything else . . . We shall instill in the boys the will to win, but we do not intend to let them forget that there is also the grace to lose." This reprint may have been a wise choice.