John Wieners and the Symbolists: No Such Thing As New Ideas
Robert Duncan in The Nation writes: "John Wieners may be related to Baudelaire, whose artificial paradise was raised in despair and yearning for, but also in accusation of, the Father, and more immediately to Rimbaud, whose illuminations also (fire stolen from Zeus or sound from God) were flashes, grains of light...."
"My themes are heartfelt ones of youth and manly desire. Their subjects are despair, frustration, ideal satisfaction, with Biblical and classical referential echoes. Their forms are declarative, orderly and true, without invention." ~John Wieners as quoted in Raymond Foye's entry in "The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America"
John Wieners may be related to Baudelaire, whose artificial paradise was raised in despair and yearning for, but also in accusation of, the Father, and more immediately to Rimbaud, whose illuminations also (fire stolen from Zeus or sound from God) were flashes, grains of light, from grains of hallucinatory drugs…. [Wieners] derives from whatever songs of unrequited and unhappy love, transient rapture, enduring tenderness—from Rimbaud or Baudelaire, but also from blues or the high speech of Elizabethan theatrical passion—all that might provide a tradition for what is most real in his own life. It is a great tradition of what is most real; not only poets but seers and prophets have reiterated the ultimate value of an ecstasy that is identified with sexual orgasm, with sight beyond sight, with divine or demonic inspiration…
We are aware that for this poet intense experiences are realized as song…. [A] graceful rigor seems to be Wieners' natural mode; we feel the force of deliberation in his most free forms—he is never casual. The grace is miraculous, for he aims at intensities, he is moved in intensities, by orders that shape and then restrict feeling to the ardent. In certain poems,… this force is so strong, emotion so entirely moving toward the form of the poem, that no element of putting into words comes into it; he must indeed, as he testifies in 'Let the heart's pain slack off,' listen to an inner voice…. His mind seems so all heart, his heart all mind. (p. 596)
Robert Duncan, in The Nation (copyright 1965 by the Nation Associates, Inc.), May 31, 1965.