Hollis Summers Martin Levin - Essay

Martin Levin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

At first, Tom and Caroline seem as vital as Barbie dolls. Gradually, with rare skill, the author shifts from their surface mannerisms to their awareness of themselves and of one another….

The magic of "The Garden" is that it makes a rhapsody of the commonplace. Hollis Summers's panoramic vision catches everything. From their meetings with strangers in an alien setting, Tom and Caroline achieve an almost painful isolation of their individual personalities. (p. 42)

Martin Levin, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 17, 1972.

"To make a sacred pageant," writes Hollis Summers,"… You do not need rock cliffs,/A walled city, a river running./Start with a picture of where we live/Wearing what we're wearing." When Summers follows his own advice, writing about home, himself traveling, the small encounters of everyday life, he is at his best. Occasionally he tries something more nightmarish, and at times this approach leads to poems, like "The Doll," which depend too heavily on the intrinsic interest of their subject matter. To recount odd dreams in a matter-of-fact tone is not quite enough for poetry; what is needed is more attention to language's resources. But there are not many poems in [Start from Home] which fail as "The Doll" does. Most of them are wise, witty, and engaging, and remind us that a poet, if he only can stay alive, can function wherever he is. (p. xiii)

Virginia Quarterly Review (copyright, 1973, by the Virginia Quarterly Review, The University of Virginia), Vol. 49, No. 1 (Winter, 1973).