R(ussell) G. Vliet Dan Jaffe - Essay

Dan Jaffe

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Events & Celebrations is] remarkable for its skill, resonance, and diversity. Section II contains a sequence of twenty "Clem Maverick" poems. Vliet brings to life a hillbilly balladeer who

              At thirteen
              stuck his flattop in a towsack
              and turnt pro.

Vliet captures moments in Maverick's life, altering the structure and tone of the poems to fit the moments and the varying means of perception. Satirical and sorrowful, these poems provide one with a sense of the way in which the public world infringes on the private life of an unsophisticated man, and how he in turn affects others. Our view is from the outside, but always there is a sense of inner tragedy.

In addition to the Maverick poems, Events & Celebrations contains twenty-four lyrics and two long Biblical prose poems…. There is throughout the lyrics a feeling of underneath, a feeling unleashed by vivid catalogues of the topside.

Vliet at times echoes other poets, but echo is not imitation. Here is a poet stretching out, one who gives the reader the sense of a big, sensitive guy bucking a resistant world that he loves. Events & Celebrations is cause for celebration. (p. 29)

Dan Jaffe, "An All-American Muse," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1966 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XLIX, No. 42, October 15, 1966, p. 29.∗