Gibbons Ruark Essay - Critical Essays

Ruark, Gibbons

Ruark, Gibbons 1941–

Ruark is an American poet. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36.)

[A Program for Survival] is a poetry of a high and difficult sort, not easily achieved and less easily contrived. These poems took a long time: nothing here was slapped down unrevised, nothing here depends for its effects on cryptic, half-digested talk to obfuscate some basic vacancy. Much as he may have been tempted, Ruark has resisted any urge to pad his book with the kind of exercise in which the young poet explores the reaches of his virtuosity. Ruark insists on his own voice and he knows its dimensions well. There is an emotional authenticity about all these poems that makes them almost overpowering with a kind of uncanny, unrelenting force. They stay in the mind because they have been, many of them, driven there so deeply they will not pry loose.

Michael Heffernan, in Midwest Quarterly, Vol. 12, 1971, p. 456.

This superb collection of lyrics [A Program for Survival] immediately establishes Ruark as a major young poet. A careful use of his senses is his beginning, but it is his language that permits poem after poem to shock with its beauty. He explores marriage and deaths, war, trapped miners, and the covering of children, penetrating to their essence as well as his own. "Orpheus Singing in the Forest" will soon be in any twentieth-century anthology; "A Screech Owl's Lament" is one of the finest elegies in English. Although rather traditional in form, his poems do not reveal naked influences so he may experiment more in the future. But here is a grand beginning.

John Graham, in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Autumn, 1971), p. clxiv.

Gibbons Ruark has at least ten masterful poems in his first volume, A Program for Survival, and most of the rest of the forty-three are of high quality. Ruark is quiet, reflective; in fact nostalgia is his vision, particularly in memories of his dead father…. And I do not think of nostalgia as a second-rate emotion. Like romantic love, nostalgia is a way to personal continuity, a stay against chaos. Ruark accepts and loves the family that raised him, and he accepts and loves the family he is raising in turn. Affirming family and friends, he makes marvelous poetry in the process.

James Whitehead, in Saturday Review (copyright © 1971 by Saturday Review/World, Inc.; reprinted with permission), December 18, 1971, p. 38.