Although Mark Van Doren wrote more than one thousand poems, critics have not responded commensurately. Very few critics have seriously treated Van Doren’s poetry, although other poets have praised it and almost no one has made unfavorable comments about it. More than one critic has suggested that the volume of the work has discouraged criticism. Since Van Doren wrote many good poems but none which have been singled out for special merit, a comprehensive study of his work would be a lengthy task. Van Doren’s subject matter and style also vary so widely that choosing “representative” poems for study is virtually impossible. Finally, and most significantly, his poems can generally be grasped at first reading by any reader; unlike some of his contemporaries, Van Doren did not write poems requiring extensive annotation to be understood by the average reader. His poetry is therefore much more accessible than the work of many other modern poets, making the critic’s work as interpreter for the most part unnecessary.
Despite the variety of Van Doren’s poetry, some common themes do emerge. He frequently wrote about family and friends, love, death, animals, and nature—familiar poetic topics treated in a traditional manner. His imagery may be effective but is not startling or brilliant; his diction is precise but not unusual. His love for New England in general and his Connecticut farm in particular has caused critics to compare him to Robert Frost. Van...
(The entire section is 1395 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Mark Van Doren Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!