Mona Van Duyn | Critical Review by Richard Lattimore

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Mona Van Duyn.
This section contains 378 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Richard Lattimore

Critical Review by Richard Lattimore

SOURCE: "Poetry Chronicle," in The Hudson Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Spring, 1983, pp. 210-11.

In the following excerpt, Lattimore offers praise for Letters from a Father, and Other Poems.

In her sixth book, [Letters from a Father, and Other Poems,] Mona Van Duyn writes mostly blank verse more on the order of Frost than Stevens or Aiken, but the language is a lot racier. Or it may be couplets, rhymed stanzas, even a sonnet—but whatever it is, she dishes it out with practiced casual skill. The heart of this collection is a cluster of poems from family history, about photographs, with letters and memories, with the handsome father and mother (and daughter) losing their looks and strength until "They are no longer parents. Their child is old." "Lives of the Poet" describes how our poet, newly married and in her first year of college teaching, received a letter from her mother:

     I was fortunate enough to have
     a mother who on one occasion
     encouraged me by commissioning
     a poem. Newly married, I
     was tackling my first teaching job
     when a letter came which said, in part:
     "As writing is so easy for you
     I want you to write a poem about
     the San Benito Ladies Auxiliary
     that I belong to. Our club has twenty
     members and we bake cute cookies
     and serve them with coffee and do our sewing
     at the meeting. We make stuffed animals
     to give poor Texas kids at Xmas.
     Tell all that in the poem."

And so on. She says she wrote the poem. There are other themes. "A Reading of Rex Stout" plays back and forth between the unappetizing murder exhibits investigated by Nero and his minions and the lovely gourmet fare they refresh themselves with in the intervals. Mona Van Duyn is easy to take and gives you something to bite on. You may sometimes want to spit it out, as when, for instance, there is, on the lake "an immense cow-pie of mist"; but there is no lack of vigor and sharp edge. "Farm dogs explode from porches"; "deer-mice with Disney ears"; or, in a scene from liberated Madrid:

     Like bears on hind legs sharpening their claws,
     men and women stand by the walls
     and scratch with their fingernails
     at the campaign posters they disagree with,
     ripping tiny strips from the print.

A good poet to be writing, these days.

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This section contains 378 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Richard Lattimore
Literature Criticism Series
Critical Review by Richard Lattimore from Literature Criticism Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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