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Youth is wholly experimental,"" said Robert Louis Stevenson, who died of TB, and had bad dreams, during one of which he discovered Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The young American poets collected here are quite experimental, too. Since they live in a psychedelic age, rather than a Victorian one, it is not exactly clear what they are dying of, or will die from, though there are a number of mortal queries interestingly proferred here and there. ""Why must my life be as obvious as an elbow?"" asks Kathleen Fraser, who also has a fascinating poem in which she accepts her legs: ""Legs! O that was the year we did acrobatics in the annual gym show./Now you split for me!"" Others are intent on discovering things, though whether they do so in dreams or through other means is equally unclear: ""Your navel winks like a buried star"" is quite an image, perhaps surpassed only by the following brilliant, if worrisome, line: ""In my heart of daughters they look lovelier than peacock feathers. . . "" Naturally, the majority of the poets represented here are part of the New York School and just about all of them have been influenced by Frank O'Hara, John Ashberry, and Kenneth Koch. Naivete, digging the self, immediacy, the celebration of innocence and wonder, Saying only what has magical meaning for you and your world, linguistic play and surrealist jokes--these are the qualities that are promoted in the same way the young fashionable academic poet of the '50's promoted his symbolic landscapes and metaphysical suburban wit. They seem poems written by committees (or tribal cults) rather than by individuals. Berrigan, Strand, and Geraud are distinctly the best.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1968
Publisher: Follett