Mona Van Duyn | Critical Review by John Woods

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Mona Van Duyn.
This section contains 365 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by John Woods

Critical Review by John Woods

SOURCE: "The Teeming Catalogue," in Poetry, Vol. 96, No. 1, April, 1960, pp. 47-51.

In the following excerpt, Woods surveys some of the poems in Valentines to the Wide World.

Mona Van Duyn appears to be a fully-engaged poet. She is not the house organ of any special lobby, but is trying on several attitudes, several voices [in Valentines to the Wide World].

About poetry she writes:

    But what I find most useful is the poem. To find
    some spot on the surface and then bear down until
    the skin can't stand the tension and breaks under it …
                    Only the poem
    is strong enough to make the initial rupture …
    And I've never seen anything like it for making you think
    that to spend your life on such old premises is a privilege.

I am sure that some of her passages are mistakes. In Part Three of "To My Godson, On His Christening," she writes:

     Oh, we know our tongue tollings, baskets of wellwishes, won't
     keep you back from your life. Still burnt from birth, you jump
     toward that fire. Yet the pause we've programmed here is misleading,
     whips me (balky, strange to the course and the speeding)
     off, in a halter of words, to run for your meaning.

Although "Each skull encloses / trinkets, museums of rarities, whole zoos of wishes," the mind has a limited willingness to catalogue such variety.

These poems are committed, also, to love, to love of the world. "Love is that lovely play / that makes us and keeps us," the eight-year-old girl is told. In her third "Valentine to the Wide World," she states that "Beauty is merciless and intemperate", but that one "against that rage slowly may learn to pit / love and art, which are compassionate".

In "The Gentle Snorer," when two had "dimmed to silence" in a Maine retreat, a three-weeks cabin guest brought back the world, as he snored. He "sipped the succulent air", and "sleeping, he mentioned death / and celebrated breath".

     He went back home. The water flapped the shore.
     A thousand bugs drilled at the darkness. Over
     the lake a loon howled. Nothing spoke up for us,
     salvagers always of what we have always lost;
     and we thought what the night needed was more of man,
     he left us so partisan.

(read more)

This section contains 365 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by John Woods
Follow Us on Facebook