Collected Shorter Poems Essay - Critical Essays

Hayden Carruth

Collected Shorter Poems

Throughout his career, Hayden Carruth has experimented with language and structure to widen and enhance his spectrum. Especially in the poems from the books IF YOU CALL THIS CRY A SONG and BROTHERS, I LOVED YOU ALL, it is Carruth’s project to show us the inner experiences of rural New England. The language of these poems is unapologetically direct; they have an open, natural speaking quality that drives straight to the reality of the beautifully harsh people they portray, as well as the landscape that shapes and determines them. To be sure, Carruth does exercise an immense range of language and usage. His philosophically contemplative poems such as “R.M.D.,” “In Russia,” and “Unnatural Unselection” are unapologetically guided by a drive to explore concepts and open cognitive space. And in his sonnets, included in a numbered series, he maintains strong ties to tradition while opening the form and allowing the poems to become conversational in their pondering.

The importance of destruction for Carruth, as the agent that releases the natural self from its physical and incidental bondage, becomes apparent from the volume’s first section, poems from THE CROW AND THE HEART. In the later poems, the treatment of these same themes, but with a poetic maturity that strives to reconcile the philosophical with the natural voice, reflects the lifetime of evolution that the collection traces. The result, in poems such as “Pa McCabe,” “Living Alone,” “Essay on Death,” and “The Way of the Conventicle of the Trees,” is perhaps the most natural and personal voice of the collection, yet it is a voice that speaks unashamedly in contemplation and abstraction.

For Carruth, the violence of continually stretching from his poetic center has revealed that natural poetic self. Thus, by the end of this collection, Carruth has reconciled the independent, natural self and the encompassing, loving environment, and at the same moment has recognized his authentic poetic imagination as the agent of unity.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVIII, April 1, 1992, p. 1425.

Library Journal. CXVII, April 1, 1992, p. 121.

The Nation. CCLV, November 16, 1992, p. 600.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, December 27, 1992, p. 2.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, February 17, 1992, p. 58.