Hayden Carruth

Hayden Carruth on: "Twenty-One Love Poems"

The heart of this book is a sequence of sonnetlike love poems--no, call them true sonnets. For if they do not conform to the prescribed rules, they certainly come from the same lyrical conception that made the sonnet in the first place, and it is long past time to liberate the old term from its trammeling codes of technique. Here is one from the sequence:

[Carruth quotes No. 11 from "Twenty-One Love poems"]

It is an outstanding poem but typical as well of Rich's way of writing: the genuinely literate sentences woven into genuinely poetic measures, cadences, and patterns of sound; the easy, perfectly assimilated classical allusion; the sense of immediate, unique experience; the details--here the female mountain and flower--turned into generalized insights of humane value. These are the resonances we find in all the poems. A mind is here, a loving mind, in and of this world, including all this world's cultural inheritance, yet still asserting, firmly and calmly, its own independence and newness.

From Harper’s (1978).

Hayden Carruth: On "Two Tramps in Mudtime"

"Two Tramps in Mud Time" opens with the poet as wood-splitter in the thawing time of late winter, suffering the interruption of two unemployed loggers; this is good localized description, the kind Frost was master of. But then he appears not to know what to do with his opening. The poem wanders into further unnecessary description: the April day, the bluebird, the snow and water; and then it ends in four stanzas of virtually straight editorial matter. The two tramps and the mud-time are left utterly stranded. When one thinks how Frost would have used these figures at the time when he was writing his earlier dramatic and narrative poems, one can see clearly, I believe, how he had deserted his own imagination and how he tried to make up the deficiency through conscious manipulation and force

From "Robert Frost" in Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Spring-Summer, 1975.