Brewster Ghiselin Claude Fredericks - Essay

Claude Fredericks

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Ghiselin is a painter. too, and this is perhaps a clue to both his weakness and his strength as a poet. He has a sensitive eye, and most of the poems in ["Against the Circle"] are careful observations of sensuous detail expressed with precision and taste. For he has a sensitive ear as well, and he has encouraged it with an evident study of prosody. He lacks, however, the passionate conviction that makes competent poetry meaningful. One reads through page after page of gracefully expressed images, continually awaiting a resolution of image into some sort of pattern. It does not come….

In fairness it should be added that the author may be understanding his talent and working here within its limitations. A reading of the two or three failures in the book, the more ambitious poems, such as "The Vision of Adam," where the end is never gained and the small virtues lost, makes one think so. And to know the limits of one's talents is so rare a grace in American literature it should not be underestimated. But though Mr. Ghiselin may be an Imagist with a technique and taste most of the Imagists lacked, or even Mallarmé without Mallarmé's intellectual ends, his poetry is hardly the poetry that is needed now. Poetry is indeed, needed badly, but poetry that is more than music, with bone as well as flesh.

Claude Fredericks, "Poems by Brewster Ghiselin," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1946 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 31, 1946, p. 37.