Brewster Ghiselin Kathleen Raine - Essay

Kathleen Raine

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Country of the Minotaur] contains poetry which at times approaches greatness. Sea and The Wheel … invite, and often sustain, comparison with Conrad Aiken. Both poets write from an experience, a vision, which seems to me, a European, essentially, inimitably, and superbly American. It is a poetry of modern, complex man's re-confrontation with virgin Nature; with the myth of Eden, and the parting of the ways of man from that in which we are conceived and from which we are born. Whitman and Melville are of this line, and Audubon, besides other American poets (like Richard Eberhardt) of Ghiselin's generation….

In America, the confrontation of the natural with the human wilderness has been and is more dramatic, tragic, and consciously experienced than elsewhere on earth, where history has interposed a richness, and a context, not found on the American continent. For us in Europe the tragedy is the destruction of civilization; in America, of virgin nature. In such a situation poets like Brewster Ghiselin give expression to a nostalgia of national proportions. (p. 288)

[Much in his work] invites comparison with that supreme poet of the marvels of the planet, St.-John Perse. In both poets there is the delight in the unimaginable strangeness of the animate world. If poetry begins in wonder, such poets—Aiken also—find for us marvels as no poets have done for centuries. The marvellous is ever before their eyes, in the "handful of ocean water clearer than glass", in the strange precisions, adaptations, and ingenuities of form and function…. Perse is of course the greater poet…. Yet Brewster Ghiselin also has the mastery of a majestic sweep by...

(The entire section is 699 words.)