Carruth, Hayden (Vol. 18)
Carruth, Hayden 1921–
Carruth is an American poet, novelist, critic, and editor. His poetry is versatile in mood and verse form, rich in language, and often autobiographical. Strongly influenced by Yeats, he creates eloquent poetry, noted for its control and lyricism. Carruth calls his philosophy a "radical secular existentialism." Though considered overly formal and academic by some critics, he is praised for the sustained power and emotional intensity of his long poems. (See also CLC, Vols. 4, 7, 10, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)
[Brothers, I Loved You All: Poems 1969–1977] is simply superb. Carruth gets better as he gets older because he has not stopped caring—for the poem or for the world. "Paragraphs," the concluding poem in this volume, consists of 28 16-line stanzas. It ends celebrating the recording of "Bottom Blues" in 1944, having gotten there from the Campground Road in Carruth's Vermont. How it got there is the poem, and makes it major—a term I don't use loosely….
Carruth speaks from and to a shared experience in his own voice. But that voice has heard what is around it. The combination is irresistible, and must produce poems that matter. But then he says: "In nature / rebirth will follow, we know, an upheaval / greater than death, but sometimes it / doesn't matter…."
This is the central fact. I won't say only poets know it, but how come they're the only ones who say it? And still go on writing.
Adrienne Rich, "Books: 'Brothers, I Love You All'," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1978), Vol. XXIII, No. 57, December 18, 1978, p. 120.
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Few poets have been as social … as W. B. Yeats; few have been as essentially solitary as Hayden Carruth. But like Yeats in his Tower, Carruth has for years rooted his poetry in the primary realism of place: in his case "a country laborer's / holding, fourteen acres 'more or less'" in the bottom of Foote Brook Gulf in northern Vermont. The difference in local altitude points to a major difference in attitude: Yeats, from the beginning, looked down on the changes that waved beneath him; his bitterness towered as he aged. Carruth is no less immune to anger, to the new "brutishness" which dooms farms and invades "the sacred identity" of individual lives. But Carruth's poems resist at ground level every invasion; they know the bitterness of a northern winter in their very bones, and their outlook is, by necessity rather than program, New England radical….
As any reader of The Bloomingdale Papers … must know, one of Hayden Carruth's inherent strengths is his will to resist not only the insanities of our society, but the "awful madness in the Valley of Humiliation" that he has himself been through. Where Yeats finally needed a Crazy Jane to dramatize a knowledge he could barely speak for himself, Carruth lets his own voice tell the virtue of walking naked…. Having once known a madhouse inside out, Hayden Carruth has come through to such sanity that he can speak the variant anguish of fully experienced middle age. And, beyond...
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Somewhere between Robert Frost's pastoral skepticism and Mikhail Bakunin's trust in historical progress, Hayden Carruth makes his way [in "Brothers, I Loved You All"]. He is, finally, a moralist, as this volume's long center piece, "Vermont," shows. He doesn't trust the difference between the contemporary and archaic….
For Mr. Carruth there is "more warmth and far less vanity" in his neighbor's greeting than there is in "people living for the minutest public dissection / of emotion and belief." Running against the tide of fashion and standing on the "absolute stone," the "abyss inverted, the abyss made visible," means that the poet must claim much for his language. That claim rests in part on the Vermont dialect, which he'd rather discuss than glibly mimic. But he also claims that Vermont Republicans and anarchists are the same: "names / are slippery, unreliable things." (p. 8)
His poetry will strike some as insufficiently dialectical, but Mr. Carruth often seems clear about what he's willing to settle for…. "Paragraphs," a long, 28-section poem, is not, as the jacket claims, "surely one of the few great poems written in English during recent years." Nor, I think, would Mr. Carruth, a keen-eyed critic and reviewer, claim so himself. But it is part of a book written out of true feelings and clear vision, and that's enough to make it valuable. (p. 14)
Charles Molesworth, "Fire...
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[Brothers, I Loved You All: Poems 1969–1977 clamors] for attention, in its richness and variety, in its burly energy, in its courage and gusto. His poems have a sureness to them, a flair and variety; they are the work of an old craftsman. Yet, in their dedication to finding an equilibrium in an alien and often cruel landscape, Vermont, where the poet has dug himself in, they reflect the moods and struggles of a man never at rest. His defeats have generated his epiphanies, and he passes on to us a certain gruff blessing, a passion to survive and make sense. His long poem, "Paragraphs," is a major work, a kind of testament of his time. He pervades his own poems. In his beautiful "Essay on Stone," he both becomes stone and makes it almost a human quality. His work teems with the struggle to live and to make sense, and his poems carve out a kind of grace for us. It is, however, his utter dedication to the office of poet that most impresses, that takes poetry beyond the need of any justification. This book fixes him firmly among the most important poets we have.
Alastair Reid, "The Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1979 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission). Vol. 6. No. 21, October 27, 1979, p. 38.∗
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