Babette Deutsch George Garrett - Essay

George Garrett

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The voice that sings through the poetry of Babette Deutsch is that of someone the reader would like to know and should. Her "Collected Poems 1919–1962" moves into a different, more interesting dimension, exhibits a wholeness almost unequaled in contemporary poetry. This book is the harvest of half a century of continuous creativity, and it is one which dazzles the reader with its virtuosity and at the same time defies him to remark any lessening of the essential vigor and energy of the artist. This is the voice not just of a poet, but of an artist…. And her voice is never just the voice of the intellectual, though as a matter of fact she moves with grace and agility among unruly ideas. And it is never just the voice of a sensitive critic, the critic whose "Poetry in Our Time" is the critique of modern verse and poetry. Nor is it only the voice of a superb technician whose "A Poetry Handbook" has been hailed by poets everywhere. It is the voice of a complete human being. Sophisticated in the laudatory sense, free and easy among many languages, cultures, and disciplines, she has yet been blessed with a child's unceasing capacity for wonder, an untarnished innocence, a quick sense of deep feeling. It is because of all these things that she is one of the very few modern poets, living or dead, who is able to move a reader to the edge of tears…. In many of these poems she takes a tough, unsentimental look at the evils of a bad world, but back to back with these poems are others which celebrate the goodness of creation. Celebration, joy, wonder, and a profound sense of compassion are characteristic; so much so that the reader must be cautioned lest he conclude that these virtues are in any way typical. They are not. (pp. 327-28)

Babette Deutsch's poems are exemplary in the classical sense, representing what any artist aspires to most—from the long struggle with the craft so hard to learn a sense of grace, from the inner and outer sufferings of a bad century the strength and pride to suffer and rejoice. (p. 329)

George Garrett, "The Naked Voice," in Virginia Quarterly Review (copyright, 1964, by the Virginia Quarterly Review, The University of Virginia), Vol. 40, No. 2 (Spring, 1964), pp. 326-29.