Babette Deutsch George Scarbrough - Essay

George Scarbrough

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Babette Deutsch has always impressed me as being a fine painter in words, capable of arresting an image in the mind's eye. Not that she is devoid of ideas. On the contrary. But that, with minor exceptions (as in "Three Views of Mount Rainier," which is a bit nonsensical and childish with its image of the snowy mountain as a giant ice cream for God), she is able to confront the mind with a dimensional, chromatic picture that is an idea in itself, or better still, that evokes a series of ideas in pretty much the same way that a Japanese landscape unfolds its possibilities….

Her Collected Poems, 1919–1962, covers, from the standpoint of years, the better part of a lifetime, and extends to the reader who himself has survived those years the comfort of knowing that a sensitive, lively intelligence found some grace in them. Her poetic forms are varied, the poetry only here and there obviously and painfully the writing of a woman. But her best verse (and I mean by "best": competent, good, though certainly not great) evidences a perception, a liveliness, that is sometimes Elizabethan, always wholly individual, belonging to no one else; also apparent, in her wide choice of verse forms, is a personal development that has owed little to movements or schools….

Much of the poetry … [leans] heavily on traditional themes but [treats] them in a personal way, with a strong, controlled touch that argues much for Miss Deutsch's perception and originality. Reading these explicit, sometimes subtly refined, experiences is to understand how the years may be challenged with a wager on their meaning and outcome. (p. 147)

George Scarbrough, "One Flew East, One Flew West, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," in The Sewanee Review (reprinted by permission of the editor; © 1965 by The University of the South), Vol. LXXIII, No. 1, Winter, 1965, pp. 138-50.∗