Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Throughout the 1930’s, Fearing wrote angry poetry that satirized the excesses and failures of a society. By the end of World War II, he had not changed his mind about the social system, but he had developed a degree of perspective. Therefore, the visionary strain that runs through his later poems is a kind of speculative transcendence. These poems suggest that the “normal” is haunted by the nonnormal, the abnormal, or the supernormal; the rationalistic position of the social critic gradually gives way to the mystical imagination of the prophet or seer.
“End of the Seers’ Convention” joins Fearing’s critique of society with the stirring of a millennial vision. The idea of a merger of occult approaches is unlikely, and therefore humorous, but the whimsical nature of the proceedings is darkened by the bizarre explanations of human motives. The polarity established between those who believe that humanity’s redemption is spiritual (the mesmerist, the illusionist, and the card reader) and those who take a more political perspective (the Gypsy and the crystal gazer) seems permanent. Fearing chides both sides, criticizing the apparent “spiritualists” for losing their spirituality in the practical and the political realists for losing their faith while pursuing the narrowly tactical. When the Gypsy asks how to “combat the widespread and growing evil of the police” and the crystal gazer asks how “to seize power from entrenched and organized men of Common Sense,” Fearing is voicing his own immediate concerns. The “organized men of Common Sense” stand for the entire apparatus of the modern state, the focus of Fearing’s wrath, but the poem’s mood of semicomic resignation deflects the anger. The final vision of the astrologer, which portrays an absurdist society in which authorities pursue those who follow the conventional models for success and social norms encourage “laziness and sleep, and dreams of utter peace” is a cartoon idyll. The concept has an amusing appeal, but Fearing remained too much the hard-boiled realist to argue for this vision.