Frederick Morgan James Finn Cotter - Essay

James Finn Cotter

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frederick Morgan's new book, Poems of the Two Worlds, comes as a welcome surprise after the success of his first collection, A Book of Change. The mature religious outlook, emotional honesty and clarity of style show up again, but with them we find a new range of insight and subject matter. The prospect is breathtaking, the achievement unique in contemporary poetry. Morgan is a master of vision and verse; with things to say, he speaks right out: "The book of the world has opened to my page."

Like Walt Whitman, Morgan is a poet of the body and the soul. Without adopting Whitman's mannerisms, as some poets unfortunately have tried to do, he sets out on a Whitmanesque tour of the physical and spiritual landscapes that are the terrain of modern America. The mysticism of the East and the rocky coast of Maine, Christ risen from the dead and the streets of New York—these mark the route for the present-day adventurer, whose journey is inward, of this place and time….

His subjects are childhood, nature, language, myth, old selves and their ghosts, the body and soul, society and the new self. The central theme is again that of change, the terrors it involves and the hope it holds out….

Many of Morgan's poems are … prayers. Whether he is exorcising old devils or feeling the cool stirrings of the "unapproachable One" in his heart, the poet seeks through all his deaths and lives to flow in the divine presence and to continue to sing of "your glory, your peace, your abundance." Poetry here becomes truly liturgical while remaining completely personal; it is the elixir that enables the adventurer to pass easily between the two worlds and to bring back gifts to men. (p. 550)

James Finn Cotter, "'Poems of the Two Worlds'," in America (reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc.; © 1977; all rights reserved), Vol. 136, No. 24, June 18, 1977, pp. 550-51.