Peter Wild Essay - Critical Essays

Wild, Peter


Wild, Peter 1940–

Wild is an American poet. He creates poetry marked by surreal images and exuberant energy, reflecting his sensitivity to the physical world, especially his love for the natural beauty of the southwestern United States. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)

William Pitt Root

[Peter Wild] is little known except to the readers of little literary magazines. This is too bad, because he is one of the better surrealist poets at a time when surrealism suffers in more public hands.

What is good about Wild's work is its lucence, vitality, and respect for mysteries. Image by image, it is clear, and often enough I finish reading a poem certain of the internal dynamic of coherence but unable to exhaust it by any description, contenting myself to experience what I cannot explain. Wild is weak in his tendency to indulge his eye or his ear even when they are receiving nothing worth making record of and when he overworks his imagination and comes up with a trifle from the shallows, such as the section entitled "God Is A Helicopter With A Big Searchlight" in 3 Poems.

His forte is the dreamstate in which what happens is clear, feels inevitable, and yet has as its frame of reference a kind of wonder…. (p. 51)

[The] title poem [of Fat Man Poems] defines both Wild's gifts and the rather limiting use he can put them to. "He walks through seas of himself,/always deeper; horizons fade", and it is as though he dissolves and is reassembled into a new strange form by the sea; then

he draws
his clustered world behind him;
happily waves his arms,
and the birds fly,
then settle on his head...

(The entire section is 629 words.)

John R. Carpenter

The attitudes expressed in [Cochise] are agreeable: romantic love of Indians (without much information or contact), of wild animals, of nature. Wild's favorite images are flames, saints, streams of blood, mouths, claws, slaughter, and lightning; however, his poems are generally peaceful and benign. These recurring images have an independent existence in the poet's mind: they are not related to what he sees, but he likes them and they are part of his permanent repertory. The poet declares his independence from the prosaic world of everyday reality and enters a strange, whimsical world where there is neither the pungency and vivid sensations of the physical world, nor the obsessions and deep feelings of the subconscious. Curious lines crop up like "the cathedrals of his nostrils," "a fireplace big enough for a man roast," "lightning drips from beneath her ribs", "a cheek married to the ditch grass", "baked potatoes burst from heat/from the ears of secretaries". These are imaginative, although often hard to visualize. Many poems are set pieces, such as ["Climbers," "The Poor," "Sailors," "The Indians," and "The Hobo"]. In a realistic sense they have almost nothing to do with the people mentioned in the titles, but they do not try to describe archetypes either, nor are they after the bigger game of psychological processes, feelings, or meanings. Many poems are enigmatic and contain interesting novelties, but it would be a mistake to search for meaning behind them. Wild seems to want to escape from both meaning and sharp feelings; he says that his poetry is "regional, seasoned by the surreal", and his poems often resemble automatic writing which fails to make contact with the subconscious. (p. 167)

John R. Carpenter, "The Big Machine," in Poetry (© 1974 by The Modern Poetry Association; reprinted by permission of the Editor of Poetry), Vol. CXXV, No. 3, December, 1974, pp. 166-73.∗

Peter Cooley

The Cloning shows Wild's feeling for forces in the natural world with a vitality close to Lawrence's yet more surreal. This poet experiences life through the body yet works for a transcendence in many poems. (p. 478)

Cloning is a voyage into different parts of America, but the journey is not progressive, and it never pretends to be conclusive. We gather the momentum instead from single poem after single poem presented not as perceptions of one egocentric "I" but as vision itself looking at experience. (p. 479)

Again and again the contrast between vision and actuality in the past and present is Wild's concern…. Seemingly arbitrary connections often juxtapose both realms, too, in relationships not clear till we experience the total design of the poem….

Wild is one of our most prolific and most talented poets, his poems appearing in every conceivable sort of publication…. He is a young poet not to watch for, but to read now. (p. 480)

Peter Cooley, "Visions and Revisions: Four Poets," in Michigan Quarterly Review (copyright © The University of Michigan, 1976), Vol. XV, No. 4, Fall, 1976, pp. 473-80.