GROUND FOG AND NIGHT by Eugene J. McCarthy


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Disappointment awaits those who hope to find the eloquence and power of the politician matched in the poet. Eugene J. McCarthy's second collection of poems is embarrassingly had--by turns cute, as in ""Margaret""; ""Her eyes are speckled,/Her nose is freckled,/. . ./ She lives in a room full of posters and pictures/With a brindle dog and a calico cat""; sarcastic: ""A woman is writing criticism./. . ./ I hear the drum/ Roll of her typewriter""; or just boring. Moments of insight do appear, especially in the poems concerned with aging and death-the title poem, or ""Men in Vows,"" ""To Austin Clarke,"" or ""The Death of the Old Plymouth Rock Hen"": ""Like an English queen, she died./ On wings that had never known flight/ She flew, straight into the woodpile/ And there beat out slow death/ While her curdled voice ran out in blood."" But even here the rich language owes a too-obvious debt to Yeats and Frost; and in ""The Blue Guitar"" we find entire lines lifted (without acknowledgment) from Stevens. Awkward rhymes, mixed metaphors, metrical clumsiness--all ordinary poetic failures--are compounded here by McCarthy's pomposity. It is a shame that the courage and moral clarity for which he is known should be so meagerly served; even the political poems, such as ""No Country for the Young"" and ""My Lai Conversations"" are mawkish and shallow.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich