Kenneth O. Hanson John N. Morris - Essay

John N. Morris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.