Ronald G(ilmour) Everson James Dickey - Essay

James Dickey

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

R. G. Everson is a Canadian poet, one of those almost-greatly-gifted writers from North of the Border, like Earle Birney, P. K. Page, Louis Dudek, A. M. Klein, and Irving Layton, who keep promising to give us a truly exciting national movement, and may yet. Everson at his best, is, I think, about as good as the best of these at their best, and since I like Birney, Miss Page, and Klein very much, I mean well by this. He is doubly interesting because he is in his fifties, and writes with the brashness and chance-taking-ness of extreme, belligerent, and intelligent youth. [A Lattice for Momos] brings to mind all sorts of remarks one could make about how poetry can furnish a second youth to people who discover that they are poets well on into life, and about how much this attitude and these qualities should be encouraged in those who have them. I prefer, though, to talk about Everson's particular case, and to say something about his hard-headed business-like way of getting his feelings down, and to let him show how surprisingly much this can yield in a short space…. Reading [his poetry], one declares eternal war against the weeping-willow-haired type of poet full of vague fantasies and admirable sentiments, like Shelley, and thinks of practicality as one of the greatest of the artistic virtues, and as underlying all real imagination. Even though Everson is practical in this way, he can also be very flat. But, as Louis Dudek says in a brief, sharp introduction, he also has a "sense of lived reality" in his poems, and that is what we want. As of now, Everson has just enough of the amateur about him to make his work interesting; I shudder to think of what might happen to him should he become a "professional poet." No matter what changes or developments he may go through, Everson has already said a few things uniquely and memorably. (pp. 666-67)

James Dickey, "The Suspect in Poetry or Everyman As Detective" (reprinted by permission of the author; © 1967 by James Dickey), in The Sewanee Review, Vol. LXVIII, No. 4, Autumn, 1960, pp. 660-74.∗