A variety of qualities accounts for the complexity of Conrad Aiken’s poetry: eclecticism, mysticism, prolixity, diffusiveness, suggestiveness by implication, and, above all, a sophisticated philosophical and psychological concern. His purview may at times seem paradoxical, for he is romantic as well as classical, stoic and epicurean, optimistic and doom-stricken, joyous and despairing, assertive and diffident. Whatever his mood, his humane regard for man’s fate, along with his refusal to shrink from harsh reality, is impressive. Through all these qualities flicker the familiar gleams of his poetic inspirations. Aiken has freely and admittedly been influenced by Shakespeare, Joyce, Pound, Poe, Masters, Robinson, Eliot, Blake, Keats, and the nineteenth century Transcendentalists, to say nothing of Freud, Jung, and Krafft-Ebing.
Technically speaking, insofar as it is possible to divorce technique and substance, Aiken is usually unexceptional. By far his favorite prosodic form is blank verse, befitting of course his epic intents; this form is punctuated by cacophonies, metric irregularities, and free rhythms which provide variety of movement and counterpoint. His use of tetrameter couplets is frequent and he imitates the Shakespeare sonnet form in two sequences, “Sonnets,” and “And in the Human Heart.” He is not noteworthy for metrical experimentation save in his moving homage to Garcia Lorca, “The Poet in Granada,” the choral ode sections of...
(The entire section is 1307 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Poetry of Aiken Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!