Daryl Hine's The Devil's Picture Book … may or may not illustrate Northrop Frye's dictum: "Poetry can only be made out of other poems." It either proves that Professor Frye's nestlings are true eagles or that poetry made out of other poems is in fact no poetry at all.
I am impressed by the book, by how much it is a piece of ventriloquism in which seventeenth century corpses are made to speak again, or in which Auden in wax is made to babble for Hine, but I miss the fresh sensual delights of poetry. This is cold marble, the "Cold Pastoral" of Keats' Grecian Urn, romantic idealism carried to excess, to the very extinction of poetry.
In Daryl Hine we have an amazingly capable poet for whom poetry is not a mimetic art, whose eye is not in a fine frenzy rolling, who does not overflow with powerful emotion, who does not feed and water the passions, who is not an original, or a legislator, or a man speaking to men—in fact none of the things that poets and critics have always insisted is true poetry—not even an objective correlative—not even complex in an instant of time—but a poet for whom poetry is a series of extremely recherché, abstract, contrived word-forms, containing oblique and ambiguous philosophical essays and meditations. He loves villanelles, sestinas, and other formal metrical rhyme schemes that he can send spinning into the heights of philosophical outerspace. Like James Reaney's A Suit of...
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