Susan Musgrave Stephen Martineau - Essay

Stephen Martineau

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Impstone] stimulates and disappoints at the same time. The stimulation comes from the four part structure of the book which leads progressively through the intricacies and failures of personal relationships to a spiritual world of Indian legend ("Only the dead / can lead you to the // beginning"); the disappointment comes from the stylistic limitations imposed on such far-ranging material. The style is certainly finely honed; in fact it shows a precision and sense of rhythm that is more confident and consistent than in any of her earlier work. But such an economic, polished effect often pulls against the reach towards the other-worldly, the spirit beyond the grave, and, as part IV begins, one feels the need for a change of pace and rhythm, for another perspective through which to breathe in the mysterious Indian lore and the abandoned villages of Kung and Yatza.

There is one poem in this last section, "Shadow-Shamans," that suggests the latent strength in a more varied approach: a simple, semi-prose narrative of an Indian legend is interwoven with short poetic stanzas as if the narrative provoked, insisted on a further reflection. In this way the poetic result is linked to and plays against its source, thus evoking stronger awareness of its mystic aura. But generally the style of this volume is more suited to immediate, personal situations. In this context the economy works in catching sharp moments, transfixing into...

(The entire section is 536 words.)