COLLECTED LONGER POEMS by Kenneth Rexroth

COLLECTED LONGER POEMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is good to read Kenneth Rexroth when one is in one's teens. Later all that paneroticism, blood consciousness, and penny dreadful mysticism begins to sound like Arthur Godfrey brainwashed by Lawrence and Miller. Rexroth is really an essayist (Assays, Bird in the Bush). He hasn't an original idea, even an original experience, to call his own. He needs a particular text or subject matter (Tu, Fu, jazz, the Beats) to make his man-of-letters virility, Big Sur philosophy ring true and clear. His prose voice is commanding, even moving; his poetic voice, especially in these long, lumbering, doom-laden ontological monologues (or what he calls dramatic dialogues) all too often resembles some Kansas City Cassandra, stone-drunk on divination, intoning the Decline of the West, bemoaning the loss of the Community of Love, the mystery of life (with music by Victor Herbert), the transcendental illumination. His admirers uniformly commend to us his deep humanity, range of feeling, and lyric grace, probably because Rexroth commends them to us also. But surely the temperament behind his reflections, the quality of his lines, is closer to leaden-footed self-involvement than anything else. It is hard to take seriously a man who takes himself so seriously. Old Bohemia.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1968
Publisher: New Directions