Brewster Ghiselin Vernon Young - Essay

Vernon Young

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Brewster Ghiselin] must have spent the greater number of his years in the American West and at first fortunately but in the long run with less profit had Robinson Jeffers as his master…. [The poems of Windrose: Poems 1929–1979] are devoid of people and of any place where a human memory might have lodged in a monument of its creation. The poet's patent admiration of Jeffers had his historical determinism taught him to Think Cosmic; he virtually excluded mankind in his scheme, devoted to a Wild West which can only become poetry because it is depopulated. He tends, like Jeffers, to reduce human history to a kind of unnecessary consciousness when contrasted with the eternal passage of the tides, the clouds, the moon; or with the instinctive certitude that lends beauty to the flight of a pelican—or of a buzzard. Nowhere is he as explicitly cruel as the Carmel Jeremiah; nor is he pursued by dreams of incest or enraged by political errors. His similarity is confined to a diffidence towards humanism and to a regrettable echo, which he has never for long eliminated, of the Jeffers intonation—both the long line and the somewhat biblical cadence….

Ghiselin does have a personal voice when he is not kinetically in thrall to his mentor; he has fine moments when he says the Jeffers thing in his own way. (p. 146)

Numerically, Ghiselin's animal or bird poems are his most individual. Of wild life and the predatory character it inexorably illustrates he has a firm apprehension. When he concentrates on the creature itself, with small regard for its symbolic properties, he is admirably concrete, fusing image with action. (p. 147)

Vernon Young, "Poetry Chronicle: The Light Is Dark Enough," in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1981 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXXIV, No. 1, Spring, 1981, pp. 141-54.∗