M(acha) L(ouis) Rosenthal Thomas Lask - Essay

Thomas Lask

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Although M. L. Rosenthal's second book of poems, "Beyond Power,"] is in its way an extension of the first, it is marked by a deeper and more enriched tone. His wry attitude, his sense of limits in man's relations to nature and to history are still present. His unwillingness to strike rhetorical poses gives his work that playfulness and surface lightness that characterized the earlier, "Blue Boy on Skates." Some of the new poems are infectiously funny. "Homage to Matthew Arnold" may ruin "Dover Beach" for you forever. "Love in the Luncheonette" redeems a dreary piece of Americana by its wit and humorous empathy…. But for the most part, these poems are the expression of a thoughtful and deeply moved man before the majesty and impersonality of nature and the equal impersonality of history. He acknowledges without understanding the evil that lies in men's hearts. He faces death and loss without seeking transcendental solace, knowing that death is part of living. The ease and flexibility of his lines hide his technical assurance. A highly satisfying book by one for whom all show, all pretense have been burned away in the cauldron that is our age.

Thomas Lask, in a review of "Beyond Power," in The New York Times (copyright © 1969 by The New York Times Company, reprinted by permission), August 29, 1969, p. 27.