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This review is taken from PN Review 137, Volume 27 Number 3, January - February 2001.

BLEEDING THROUGH STANLEY KUNITZ, The Collected Poems (W.W. Norton) $27.95

The reviewer of Stanley Kunitz's Collected Poems in The New York Times Book Review says that the book 'lets us watch the quest of a poet in search of his true voice. The early poems lack it.' This locution - that the voice and the poet are separate, the poet might acquire a 'false' voice, that the voice is out there somewhere, that the poet is on a quest - is not uncommon in poetry criticism. Its intention is to claim that poetry is something transcendental, channelled by the poet who is its divine instrument. It uses inflated language to make a fetish of poetry in a way, common only to writing on poetry and art, which divorces it from place, time, biography, and craft. (No one would describe an historian or a biographer as on a 'quest' for their true 'voice', one would just trace the development of their style and intellect.) The presumption is that we are supposed to become emotionally overheated by poetry's aesthetic charge so that the critic facilitates that rush of blood in a way which precludes looking at how the writing got written.

Kunitz describes himself as a Jungian and it would be good to know exactly when he became interested in Jung as a 'way to get through to the other side, where we can hear the deep rhythms that connect us with the stars and tides'. His early poetry betrays no such interest. They are fussy, knotted little poems, ...


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