Cambridge as an intellectual community does a good deal more talking than it does creating. From clubroom to European coffee house, the accent is generally on semantics. Literature, as such, remains for maladjusted night people who pound away at typewriters between midnight and two, and file their work in big manila folders.
The night people have a very limited audience--mainly roommates and Radcliffe esthetes with sympathetic smiles. The Advocate commonly publishes only a few writers, most of whom have graduated or live elsewhere. The CRIMSON'S literary columns are strictly critical. And the University's wares are negligible in the way of "little magazines"--mimeographed monthlies, one-shots, and handbooks with big ideas.
There is, then, more than one reason to welcome Audience back to Cahaly's and the Mass. Ave. news-stands (50 cents per copy). It is a sign of life among the arid literati, and its cover is appealing.
It runs 110 pages--a gamut of essays, poems, short stories, reviews, and even a play. The editors launch the issue with a benign note to the effect that they intend to publish writers more interested in art than market.
Wyman follows with an essay on the West Coast anti-academics (the Beat and breathless generation)--a hand-dangling series of observations on San Francisco press agentry. Wyman, and a good many of Audience's poets, seem mildly awed at the energy of the Beat mystique--and profoundly amused by jazz-and-poetry miscegenation and technological bogeymen.
Audience has more to offer when its column-tenants stick to their own experience. The poetry is generally original, in the spirit of experiment. Arthur Freeman metaphorizes Samuel Johnson's sensitive mind into a trailer-truck, a diesel, and a Pershing tank, in what is probably the volume's best poem. And Nathaniel Lamar's short verse on "A Dry Anthropologist at Sea" sent Lowell House contemporary culturists to chuckling in their tea.
The poets are too many for discussion here. They range from Peter Jones (who edits an English little magazine) to Peter Heliczer. Even I. A. Richards and a San Francisco poet contribute minor works. Taken as a lump (or, with Mr. Wyman's permission, a "citadel") the poets are craftsmen of word and form, but that's about all. Images like "oval charm" and "cockpit of empyreuma" sound better sans inspection. And some of the poems rhyme.
Two longer works, a trial of Proust and a poem on the death of Shelley, further attest to the new zest for vitality in form. They are impressive in both length and language, but that very length is discouraging to the harried scholar and the springtime esoteric. They were written by an engineer and a naval aviator.
The main fault with Audience is not its content, but its intent. Edited in the Harvard community, it is not a part of that community. There are no night people depositing their yellow sheaves of paper at the Kirkland Street door slot. The authors are scattered about the nation, most of them belonging to an older generation. Audience, despite its opening editorial protestations, is just another little magazine. If there are too few in Cambridge, there are too many in America--from Washington Square to North Beach.
To survive as a continuing institution, and to prove meaningful to the Harvard community, Audience must offer something new. To sustain itself in undergraduate literature, it must seek undergraduate writers. The Charles-River-to-Brattle-Street axis may not be American literature's left Bank, but there are those of us who feel the cloistered years deserve something more than New Yorker apotheosis.