Quotes from Raymond Foye's entry on John Wieners
As usual, I find Raymond Foye to be one of the best critics on John Wieners, articulating so precisley what makes Wieners the special and amazing poet he is.
- I came across his "John Wieners" entry for The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Post War America when I was searching for lit crit that would connect Wieners to the Symbolists (see previous CPB entry). As I read along, I decided to note down some quotes from the piece:
- His is a poetry slow and deliberate--hermetic, even--striving always to impose an order of the mind upon an impinging chaos.
- Wieners proves himself a brilliant architect of the poem--carefully constructed, precise and deliberate--without sacrificing deep lyricism. And, like Poe, he displays a sensibility intensely melancholic
- Wieners has plunged himself fully into the abyss of his own extraordinary personality, and the result is a confessional, subjective, often despairing voice--perhaps the most superficially distinguishing trait of Beat poetry, the first literary offspring of the Atomic Age.
- In Ace of Pentacles Wieners uses traditional verse forms of couplet, sonnet, and ballad--all handled with disarming skill and invention. Through inversion of normal word order and abrupt shifts in cadence, Wieners subverts these forms and imbues the poems with a quality of artifice. This artifice acts as distancer between the pain and suffering out of which the poems arise and the quality of expression which is the poem itself. Throughout his poetic career, Wieners has maximized this incongruence between the passionate urgency of his message and the refined, languishing manner with which the message is conveyed.
- Wieners is now speaking as the poète maudit, whose true place is among the wretched who inhabit the underworld of cities.
- his is essentially a classical temperament--one which seeks not to oppose emotion but to refine it by way of eloquent, somber expression. In spite of his despair, we feel there is a persistent, tender longing for companionship, health, and the light of the day, and this accounts for the pathos in his poetry. In the end, it is always the dignity of his language that elevates his work above the despair from which it arises...
- the tarot embodies the very ideal the poem aspires to, with its highly concentrated imagery enigmatically spun into a homogenous unity
- the hermaphroditic symbol of Lucifer (in the poem "Confession") signifying the male/female duality--an increasingly important subject in Wieners's later works.
- Wieners employs the metaphors of the Church to convey the mysteries of poetry...
- Although Wieners may be criticized for casting women in idealized roles (mother, empress, goddess, movie star), these are the personae through which he approaches a suppressed complexity of associations; they contribute to his method of stripping away guises and semblances to touch upon the personal truths in his life. As in all of his poetic endeavors, Wieners is engaged in a struggle for demystification...
- "I hope you will be patient," Wieners told his audience, "as we try to get into some of the texts that certainly reinforce the thought that man is more than one--that it is in himself that his ideas of order and civilization and harmony must occur, rather than in conformist structures of finite logic .... Together we shall plow thru to make room for the little, the unknown, and the ignored."
- While growing increasingly declamatory and populist, Wieners's poetry loses none of its intimacy.
- [In later years] Wieners deplores the literary audience of "indulgent hearers" who prey upon the poet's misfortunes and condemns their "vanity and snobbism." [This coudlbe considered "anti-dandy" which to my mind is a right sentiment, though may go against my literary lineage connection...]