SIX MILE CORNER by Robert Dawson


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Making grandfatherly remarks about a first collection of poems from an intemperate young man is always tiresome. But the twenty five year old Robert Dawson could undergo some counseling. He is talented and zesty and unfailingly personal; his images, rhythms, feelings are thoroughly au courant: ""So culture bound I get a hard-on/thinking of classical nudity/I stalk the beach for flat stones/while my wife unstrings her bikini."" And like so many others of his generation his autobiographical snapshots owe everything to the later Lowell: ""Married, undraftable, I'm twenty three. My Germans,/the masked guard I invented in my bed,/ still murder me in my sleep each night."" Lowell's Life Studies, alas, seems destined to produce as many devotees as The Waste Land did in another era. Dawson's education sentimentale is the theme, from a family of migrant workers to a Harvard scholarship, from gritty, rolling America (""My father had abandoned us in California"") to the European quest thus paraphrased (""Walking and walking on classical soil/I feel like Goethe,/enormous, metaphysical, blonde,/playing coy in his notebook with Venetian whores...""). Aside from the obvious faults of derivativeness and uneven technical control, it is difficult to say why these poems peter out. Dawson's experiences are real, there's a certain poignance and dash to the anecdotal memory-pieces, the passage from adolescence to maturity has its moments of vigor and insight. Still, the impression is of something second-hand, of an imagination stifled by documentary effects, lacking resonance and depth.

Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin