Kenneth O. Hanson Essay - Critical Essays

Hanson, Kenneth O.


Hanson, Kenneth O. 1922–

Hanson is an American poet and editor. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56.)

Thomas Lask

The quality of being alive in his environment, with people around him, to the mood of a situation or scene marks every page of [Mr. Hanson's] work. It makes his poetry tangible, clear cut, full of presence.

[Mr. Hanson] is not one of those mystics who hugs himself for joy while uttering hymns to the creator. His poetry has bite and a harsh edge that come from a non-romantic approach to what he sees and experiences….

He is open-eyed but not superior or patronizing. The pulse of life is enough for him….

["The Distance Anywhere" is a] vigorous, hearty book, the work of a man fully engaged with the world and with God's creatures it it. (p. 29)

Thomas Lask, in The New York Times (© 1967 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 9, 1967.

John N. Morris

Kenneth Hanson's The Uncorrected World is fifty-nine lucid pages of very quiet verse about being or not being in Greece, a book in which the author presents himself to us as a sort of tourist-in-residence. In his short, deliberately unpoetical lines we ride "out the good road / built by NATO" to discover, quite by chance, the birthplace of Hesiod; or, again pretty much by accident, we drink "from a spring / guaranteed to make you / immortal."… We accompany him to a bar in Athens, where we learn that the Colonels disapprove of "the breaking of plates for fun." We observe the sailors of the Sixth Fleet, how "They sparkle in their innocence / and whites." We go to a wedding or perhaps we visit a beach…. (pp. 112-13)

Thus described, Hanson's book may not sound very remarkable. And it's true that Hanson's poems, though easy to quote (being everywhere much the same in tone), are hard to quote from in a way that suggests the final character of the book, which is superior to the particular merits of the notations and anecdotes that are its parts. I think the whole enterprise comes into focus in the last four or five poems, where it becomes clear that the book is a meditation on the deep uses of travel, on the "distances we gaze into" of his last line. Hanson's Greece, however full it is of facts that he records, is in part an idea in his mind, his version or vision of The Other Place, that real fiction necessary to some of us if we are to have our home. The Other Place is the object of a quest: "It takes much looking / after which you must be lucky." (p. 113)

John N. Morris, in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1974 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXVII, No. 1, Spring, 1974.

Sally M. Gall

Hanson in The Uncorrected World depends heavily on literal situations for his poems' initial impetus. His descriptions, vignettes, and anecdotes of the passing Greek scene are … low keyed, however. His intensities are so tightly controlled by his flat, wry, self-ironic style that apparently passionate statements tend to be slightly cryptic, as in "Thermopylae," "Tsiganos," or "Desperate Moves." The desperate moves are those of a chameleon changing color as the background changes arbitrarily, apparently passive but endowed by the poet with some precious "split-second timing." The poem could be taken as a metaphor for Hanson's own poem making: an assertion that beneath a seemingly calm surface something vital, intense, and admirable is occurring. Hanson tends to understate both the historical and personal, while demanding the reader's sympathy for whatever psychological state he happens to be in. He seems to cultivate an air of rather weary detachment on the one hand while pleading for attachment on the other.

In "Flisvos Bus-stop" Hanson's objective note-taking style leaves a great deal up to the reader. We must make what we can of a meticulous description of a young wife serving her helpless husband. Are we to connect what might be deliberate mutilation with the junta's propensities for torture, or are we being asked to admire the young man's passive composure as all the ordinary motions of living go on around him? Hanson is...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

W. G. Regier

If Kenneth O. Hanson's [The Uncorrected World] is like anything else, it is like Kenneth Hanson's old book [The Distance Anywhere]…. The earlier book was full of weather, Greek geography, and lines the length and texture of blackboard chalk. The Uncorrected World is the same world, uninterrupted courses of weather, Greek geography, and lines that squeak like chalk. The book is as disappointing as too long a ride, and as annoying as a stutter. Mr. Hanson's [second] book may have interest for those who have not read his first. But the first remains more worthwhile, and the second seems painfully secondary. (p. 370)

W. G. Regier, in Prairie Schooner (© 1976 by University of Nebraska Press; reprinted by permission from Prairie Schooner), Winter, 1975–76.