Hollis Summers Miller Williams - Essay

Miller Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Hollis Summers in The Peddler and Other Domestic Matters … takes us on a trip around the world to show us, not a fountain in Rome, but people. He deals mostly with the oneness of all who share the earth, and with our common mortality. He is writing, of course, about himself, because he is good enough to know that a poet cannot write about anyone else….

Summers has an easy hand; he employs the devices of both conventional poetry and contemporary language without awkwardness. There is no stiffness, and no grand flourishes. The poems, in fact, are so quiet at times that the lines sink into the page until there is nothing there, nothing to resolve the poem but a shrug of the shoulders—whether the reader's or the author's I am not sure.

More than most poets working now, Summers is given to the abstraction, the direct statement. He cares little for—or, anyway, makes relatively little use of—the submerged metaphor and other indirect ways to meaning, and the objects with which he builds his images are usually what he calls them, with nothing hidden inside. This is not to disparage the plainer poems. The direct statement almost always does the job; but it is the lines rich with sense not immediately seen that are strongest. (p. 32)

Miller Williams, in Saturday Review (© 1968 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), March 9, 1968.