Frederick Morgan Thomas Lask - Essay

Thomas Lask

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The two worlds of Frederick Morgan's ["Poems of the Two Worlds"], though they have geographic boundaries, impinge on each other in symbolic ways. Things of this world offer glimpses of another, and that other, often hallucinatory, surreal, nightmarish, even angelic, invades this one…. There is a kind of pantheism in these poems. Every moment, every experience has its significance and the poems record the search for these meanings even when they can't be precisely defined.

From the past the poet summons up memories of youthful erotic encounters, the sleaziness of a small Portuguese village, the procession in a Greek Orthodox Easter rite, memories of Maine autumns and city snows. They are all rendered in naturalistic detail. But the poems are not documentaries. Each scene, each experience serves both as a thing in itself and as metaphor. In these poems the man who experiences and the man who contemplates the experience are one.

"Poems of the Two Worlds" is a book in the plain style. There are no Mandarin flourishes (except in an echo of Wallace Stevens now and then). The edges are not always smooth. But these qualities—when we become aware of them—are to remind us that a satin finish is not what is uppermost in the poet's mind. It is the thought that shapes the line. Withal he can turn a stanza with Audenlike exactness.

Thomas Lask, "Books: Poet's View," in The New York Times, Section C (© 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 15, 1977, p. 25.