Horace Gregory's Collected Poems come at a bad time: fashions are in flux, the old guard critics are closing shop, and the new ones agree on little. Gregory belongs to the generation which began publishing in the early '30's, and that group more than any other is under a cloud. In technique and sensibility he has attempted to forge many schools- Eliot, Lawrence, Williams, Crane, MacLeish- but unlike them he has never hit upon a decisively individualistic tone. His best works occur in the middle and later periods. The early proletarian pieces are dated. All of his poetry is more or less free verse, all more or less dramatic monologues, yet though he has used many personas and is very diffuse, two themes emerge: a quasi-Marxist faith in social rebirth through revolutionary change, and- more importantly- a drive towards wholeness, ""to stay in no retreat and not to die,"" to escape spiritual niggardliness which he sees everywhere in the modern scene. Thus a great deal of his maturer work assays the lessons of the past to understand the present. He records with extreme sensitivity and much eloquence what it has been like for that vanishing American, the humanist, to experience the events of the last decades. In that sense and at those times, Gregory's Collected Poems have a strange ardor and a scattered loveliness, and young poets would do well to recognize the accomplishment here; poets of Gregory's generation already have.