Lewis Turco R. Dickinson-Brown - Essay

R. Dickinson-Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lewis Turco's poems get better, book after book. The Weed Garden … is Turco's best. The finest of the twenty-one syllabic poems here are almost as good as anything new I have read in years. But these poems have an elusive and cryptic profundity; to understand them it is first necessary, unfortunately, to understand some of the weaknesses in Turco's work. A good deal of the best poetry of our century is syllabic…. The success of these poems depends in part, I believe, upon the fusion of innovations of rhythmic perception with the almost inherent characteristics of English iambic tendency, stopped lines, rime and off-rime. Turco's practice is looser. It resembles the work of Marianne Moore, and it verges easily into slackness and dullness. As with Moore, Turco's virtues are often not in rhythm…. (pp. 286-87)

In addition, Turco is something of an ornamentalist. He plays with obsolete and invented words: "A twilleter fuzzes/against a burning lamp." And he is given to silly and exasperating puns. In "Mary Moody Emerson R.I.P.," "Ralph Waldo/shrugged and put down to whim this/relative moodiness." This is, doubtless, a love and delight of language, but I confess I find it a waste of time and talent…. [These qualities of Turco's poems] are the junk of experience, done when there is nothing else to do.

Turco's characteristic procedure is built in part, but finally improves, upon these habits. His poems are laid...

(The entire section is 556 words.)