Daniel Halpern Dave Smith - Essay

Dave Smith

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For me the severely spare and squeezed distillate of human experience in most of Daniel Halpern's third book, Life Among Others, is interesting but not, finally, enough. The poems haven't a sufficient dirt on their feet, however earnest their hearts, however they fully disclose an aesthetic intelligence. Twenty of Halpern's thirty-six poems commence with the same monosyllabic conjunction of a personal pronoun and a verb of the most modest action, if any, ("I take the hand of others.") which makes a flat statement whose value depends on our interest in Halpern's emotional life, his travel, or his ennui. I would guess he has come to a dead end mannerism not unlike "It is night. The snow is falling."… [Yet] beautiful poems have a habit of rising out of the most arid zones…. Three of Halpern's poems seem to do as much as we might ask and more; they are "The Hero at Midnight," "Letter To The Midwest," and "The Dance." If we are lucky, and if we look for what is and not what isn't there, we may see more poems with Halpern's own stamp of joy, such as ["The Dance"]…. Mr. Halpern is dancing pretty nicely in his poem and I am dancing for the pleasure it gives me…. (p. 33)

Dave Smith, "Dancing through Life among Others: Some Recent Poetry from Younger American Poets," in The American Poetry Review (copyright © 1979 by World Poetry, Inc.; reprinted by permission of Dave Smith), Vol. 8, No. 3, May-June, 1979, pp. 29-33.∗