Robert (Schaeffer) Phillips William Van O'Connor - Essay

William Van O'Connor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I think from here on one might chance it that Robert Phillips is going to have a place among the young poets. His Inner Weather is a thoughtful book. Much of the writing is very skillful….

If one could read the poem ["Weird Sister"] through, one could see that not only are there Shakespearean echoes here, Keatsian echoes, and echoes from Coleridge because we're dealing with what Graves calls the white goddess. What struck me in going through the poem was the way in which Mr. Phillips had modified the Yeatsian idiom. I suppose, if there is one influence here that seems to me to be at least conscious, it would be from Yeats. (p. 44)

Another thing that struck me in reading Mr. Phillips was how the post World War II generation has assimilated its literary heritage. It looks at Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, but from a new position. The poets who were writing in the thirties and early forties didn't turn and look over their shoulders at the work of Eliot or Dylan Thomas. These poets following World War II do just that. They take the writing seminar for granted; they like to do poems about pictures, particularly zany pictures, and melodramas. They can go back and pick up verse form such as Haiku. They look on the world as beaten from the oppressions of World War II. They are in a sense down to rock bottom in a way that poets in the 1920's and 30's were not. The bomb as we say may have something to do with it.

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(The entire section is 482 words.)