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The Advocate

On the Shelf

By Christopher Jencks

Two nights embrace each day

Since you have come:

Dark plum swings near plum

And grips the forked green spray

This poem may not be the best the Advocate has published this year, but it has several claims which cannot be denied. Brevity eliminates the need for that adjectival description on which critics exert so much useless effort. Directness elevates it above those Advocate pieces which are so enthralled with verbal and pictorial impressions that they cannot exclude but only include. Lyric ensures that no reader will be dissuaded until he has taken everything author Mike Wolfert has to offer.

Unfortunately the rest of the April Advocate can make no such claims. Most of the work is a stringing together of diversions, a collection of imaginings without order. And this makes criticism both necessary and difficult, for the critic must attempt to define chaos.

Stephen Wailes '59 and Gabrielle Ladd (Wellesley '57) have two poems about nature. Both are suggestive; neither harsh. But neither has much more to say than that the author is depressed. Both have a tendency to discover themselves in the natural order. This is sort of reverse Romanticism which Tennyson reduced to absurdity in In Memoriam, the kind of fabrication through which the reader sees too easily.

Arthur Freeman has written a poem called "The Short History of Art." After an opening burst of technical terminology, the poem settles down to becoming a string of harmonics which formulate a habit of mind. On the whole, it seems to be more embellishment than formulation.

But no matter how diffuse the poetry may be, it is solidity itself when contrasted with the prose. Ernest Hemingway has been a bad influence on practically everybody, but his one great merit was to show that a short story should more often than not say one thing as quickly as possible.

If John Beauvais '49 were to blue pencil every word, phrase, or paragraph which does not contribute to whatever single intention provoked "Gino's Little Brother," he might have considerably intensified his effect. As it is, he keeps dragging diversions before the eye and ear in an amusing but disturbing way.

Carol Cohen's "The Pencil King" is diffuse in a different way. Her sensibility to experience is abnormal. This is the beginning of any art, but is also the beginning of madness. She does not make the usual associations, or think in the hackneyed categories, which means that she has it within her grasp to extend the reader's sensibility to a new pattern of perceptions.

Since there are no rules by which we can say that an analogy is one of genius instead of madness, I cannot say categorically that her vision is a phantasy of no essential importance. I can only suggest that for me it has nothing to commend itself over the old truisms except its novelty.

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