Jay Macpherson David Bromwich - Essay

David Bromwich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Welcoming Disaster collects roughly a decade of Jay Macpherson's light verse and mad jottings and brilliant myth-making poems. The volume … is full of bright designs and dark conceits, amphisbaenic or yin-and-yang emblems; invocation, asides, and acknowledgments have all been severely dealt with…. [There] is really no describing a production like this—no substitute for having it. The book has a plot of sorts: at the end of a special and intimate friendship, presumably a love affair, the poet tries to get her capsized vessel afloat through a return to the terrors of childhood and the necessary unmourned losses of adult life. Her injunctions of self-command are directed to, or rather deflected off, a splendid toy bear called Tadwit or Ted, as the sequence moves from consolation to guilt to terror and finally to a deepened consolation. Miss Macpherson looks at her own life as well as Ted when she beckons to a "needed, familiar pain. / Come, little thorn." Surely, Blake would have smiled in baffled delight at the woman who could ask, "Having so much, how is it that we ache for / Those darker others?"; or speak of the search for a blessed monster "through the caverns wild / Where the giant led the child"; or hint, so calmly, at the difficult weight of love…. Yet I am reducing Miss Macpherson's grandness and verve by giving them a name. She will put readers in mind of Graves and Wordsworth, of Auden and Dickinson and Stevie Smith, of every poet who ever wrote truly about innocence and its...

(The entire section is 617 words.)