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Fearing, Kenneth (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXIII, Number III (December 1923)

C. R.
[Books],   p. 16


Page 16

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
ILLINI POETRYI
Covici McGee
I Illinois takes it on itself to break what it calls
the "poetic silence of the middle western univer-
sities" in this anthology of verse written by stud-
ents there  between 1918 and 1923. In the
preface, it speaks of the "relative dumbness" of
Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Chicago, at least
poetically, and sets forth that "farmers, journal-
ists, lawyers, and business men" are "about the
height of their great argument."
So the Illini have decided to sing the praises
of the middle west, and this book is the concrete
expression of their-song. And they hope that "it
may have the luck to arouse from silence our
songless universities of the middle west."
It must be said at the outset that the songs
are quite worth while, although here and there
a discordant note breaks the harmony. But on
the whole the book is quite a worthy performance.
Perhaps Lois Seyster Montross is best known
amoig the contributors, if for no other reason
than because of "Town and Gown." If "I wear
a crixrson cloak tonight" is not the best poem in
this new book, it is hard to tell just what is. At
any rate, this and an oriental concept, "Taj-
Misclia," are very lovely.
Two poems by Don C. Allen, "Moonstones:
A Song for Irish Faries" and "Rann for Mary
Magdalene" are especially worthy of comment.
It is hard to think how extremely fascinating this
would have been had the Christian element been
subordinated to the simple human, but that, of
course, would be taking the very core out of Mr.
Allen's work in this particular instance.
The daring of David V. Felts in writing other
than the "moonlight" poetry of precious days
gone by make such poems as "Chinese Lanterns
Idly Swaying," "Spring Smiles on from Dawn
till Gloaming" especially valuable. Lines like
these are individual enough to make even the
most jaded of poetry readers rise from lethargy:
"Bursting buds, caressing breezes,
Nice warm mud that softly squeezes,
Little birds and brooks and beeses,
Boy! Ain't Nature Grand?"
The single contribution by Francis
Coughlin is meagre but excellent. These lines
interesting:
Continued on page 25
C.
are
A BOOK BY DJUNA BARNES
Boni and Liveright
No single tenour of feeling dom nates this pot-
pourri. The separate verses dramas, drawings
and short stories deflect like gaskets in a looking
glass. You will find in them the metropolitan
awareness of Morand and Aragon, that nauseat-
ing contact of civilized people whose novelists
aim too much at effect, Anatole France thinks,
and are too anxious to show their powers. But
the world ante-1900 is staid history; and the nat-
ural expression of our neurotic cities will be tight,
fragmentary and straining.
Miss Barnes amuses herself with the first
steps in draughtsmanship. These heads in black
and white emphasize the tendencies of the sitter
enough to give them point without cerebral dis-
tortion. The lines are as sure and firm as in most
simple sketching. Yet I have seen sketches by
Greenstein and Lachaise, like Ygdrasil in com-
parison, composed in solid masses, rich and deep.
There is something callow and mongrel in
Miss Barnes' brooding. The short story charac-
ters lock themselves in an outhouse of agony.
They torture dreary hours with indecision. They
become incoherent egotists through feeling the
irretrievable. It is a belly-deep revulsion, a testy
irritation of terre-a-terre stench. Emma Cons-
berg in "Oscar" asks: "I wonder what it is about
the country that makes it seem so terrible."
Death and disease and the protraction of mere life
seem savage scabs only to the spectator. Miss
Barnes looks on, and despises herself for being
morose, for getting excited and impatient ....
about what? Two stories concern puberty, with
the frankness of Wedekind. The atmospheres
are intense, crafty, implicit; the conversation,
sudden and obsessed. Real character expression
s sacrificed for aphorisms, a clear technique for
the author's moods. Her acidity and terse in-
sights remain: "The memory of growing up is
worse than the fear of death."
The poetry has much more ease and gradual
poise. The materials are sometimes packed, but
precise :n feature. When you read the long, slow
rhythms of "A Song in Autumn" you will think
of a Provencal melancholy. "Pastoal" a most
arrests the silence of the out-door, like Verlaine's
Le ciel est par-dessus le toit." Miss Barnes in
"Lullaby," can even be what, since Edna Millay,
has been called the feminine. For a woman she
has except onal control and gravity.
-C. R.
December, 1923


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