Judith Leet Lucille Iverson - Essay

Lucille Iverson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In Pleasure Seeker's Guide, Judith Leet describes a personality which is absurdly caught between the rigors of a deadly and intellectualized self-discipline and unconscious raging passions. This conflict paralyzes the will to action. Leet places the characters in her poems in a ridiculous and destructive universe; but they are one with it—contain its conflicts, are drowning in it, dying in it. They are unable to acknowledge the feelings of others, or their own, and hysterically preserve their hypocrisy. But this reality, this universe (fortunately), is counterpoised with a fillip of a brilliant, sometimes macabre humor, like Charles Addams' cartoons which, mixing the horrible with the commonplace, make us laugh while telling us about ourselves trapped in self-illusion and folly. (pp. 28-9)

["Vision," from the poem "Death in Dreams (The Interpretation of Nightmares),"] clearly expresses her vision: the nightmare of existence, of human beings repressing their gut reactions, their passions, in order to survive in an insane world, and yet caught, paralyzed, as they slowly self-destruct. (p. 29)

[The] whole poem balances on the razor edge between the unconscious drives of feelings and the placid "reasonable" universe…. In the poem, also, is the fear of death, of the unknown, which is equated with feelings, also unknown and repressed, and only erupting in dreams. The dreamer fears that the waves may be a threat instead of a vision and that the water may drown him….

Leet's style of writing, the formal prose line, which arrests and possesses the reader while bursting with a contained energy, exactly mimics her perception of humankind caught between passion and order. We are presented with a cautious, over-intellectualized character wrapped in the formal disciplines and fraught with fears of oblivion and of his own feelings. And all our human foibles are displayed as a riotous joke—much like Evelyn Waugh, perhaps, and his macabre vision. (p. 30)

[Leet's poetry] not only reveals an astonishing power and perception, but also a skill and precision of thought seldom found in a first publication. For Leet … brings to her poetry an experience of living and the intelligence and wit of a mature personality. (p. 31)

Lucille Iverson, in Moons and Lion Tailes (copyright © 1976 by The Permanent Press), Vol. 2, No. 1, 1976.