The best thing in this month's Advocate is Robert Dawson's long poem "Epithalamion." It's a love poem ("epithalamion" means marriage song), characterized by grace, calmson, and an unqualified technical mastery. The poem has dramatic setting--an evening in the city--and it keeps to it. Mr. Dawson also uses splashes of other poets with gay sensitivity. Echoes of Hart Crane's gulls and city are there, for example; Eliot's "Prufrock" turns up in
But now the paraquet curls about
As if to shake the groundlings out.
And curls again, again, and falls asleep;
and Shakespeare looms in "With this I thee wed, as long as men shall sing." Finally, his poem manages to rhyme without seeming pusby. One stanza:
Wherefore, for beauty's trust, I give
Your gentleness, your poise, your conversation,
Three flawiees jewels into your keeping,
For who should keep them but a faultees guard.
Yet for your aid three watchdogs I include:
Your wit, your cheerfulness, your education.
Sidney Goldfarb's "Three Cities" stands in marked contrast to "Epithalamion." "Three Cities" isn't about anything, and it has no setting or scene to tell a story. Moreover, its language quickly flattens into undistinguished exclamation, apparently trying to bully us into emotion:
It rises through the sidewalk and crumples our knees. We oting to the pavement with hands and foot. Hear it!
And Mr. Goldfarb concentrates curlously on the unlovely aspects of life, with "rancid breathing," "plastic flowers," and "alley cans." If, by technique, he made them matter, there would be no quarrel; but alass he doesn't, there are happier things to write about. Other, wiser writers, understanding that there is not enough of language for more than a part of the truth, strike nearer the heart of things.
Don Block's "Grandfather" is marred only by a lack of dramatic movement. In a story so short the narrative elements--the sense of times and action--could be sharp and clear. In "Grandfather" these are a little blurred, a little confusing. For example, a paragraph about the "four mysteries surrounding grandfather's life" diverts attention from the funeral procession without really improving the story; the paragraph might have been more effective earlier in the story.
Joe Porter's "Kathy's Date" is slicker, moving nicely through seven scenes in six pages. Sometimes the dislogue is a bit too cute--two boys and a girl are a "sand-wich"--but the story is about wild college youth, and necessarily interesting. There's also some--a little--sex.
Interestingly enough, Porter's "Kathy's Date," like his November "The Devil Will Spank" and "Grandfather," ends in a cemetery. Lest anyone suspect a graveyard school at South Street, Michael Hancher explains in a pompous and unnecessary editorial on "Advocate Policy" that there is no Advocate policy, that it prints anything that "achieves," and that the oversupply of cometeries and childhood recollections is purely accidental. "If the Advocate is not always a constant joy to read from cover to cover," he apologizes, "it is because writers and editors learn from mistakes." This issue should provide more than a modicum of instruction for writers and editors; but one can hope that the smaller size is an omen of rising standards.