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Reviews 75 Palms, Peaks and Prairies. By Richard Fleck (Francestown, New Hampshire: The Golden Quill Press, 1967. 71 pages, $4.00.) Dan Freeman. By Dan Jaffe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967. 73 pages, $3.50.) These two volumes of poetry have several inconsequential features in common: their size, their length, and their lack of emotional appeal. They are both, for want of a better term, objective, intellectualized writing. There the similarities must end. Richard Fleck’s Palms, Peaks, and Prairies is a series of nature word-pictures, as the title implies, of various locales of the United States: North (“Vermont Valleys,” “Snow Clouds”); South (“Sun in the Banyans,” “Wind in the Palms”); East (“Dawn on Mt. Washington,” “Maine Multiplicities”) West (“Colorado Journey,” “Wyoming Valleys”); of seashore, prairie, and mountain. I would term Fleck’s writing stark: his words are well chosen for the concise descriptions he gives, and I cannot quarrel with this; but the de­ scriptions (as well as the words he uses), while clinically precise, have been stripped of that sympathy which comes only as a direct product of personal involvement; they come to me rather as products of personal detachment, the results of keen but objective observation. For Fleck’s readers, the appeal of this approach will of course be a matter of their own sympathetic response. But I would wish to share the poet’s experience with him, and I feel that I have been denied this pleasure. I am left instead with the evening, the hill, the prairie; and whatever significance they are to have for me, I must supply from the backlog my own past experience. I miss with Fleck the imaginative approach of a new response, a new experience. Though Richard Fleck’s poetry lacks imagination, it is not the result of an insensitive person; indeed one might well wish that the great American tourist, making the rounds of the land with station wagon, school-age off­ spring, bermuda shorts, air conditioner, and thermos jug, hurtling over the freeways and by-ways from one rest stop to the next, could see as clearly what they have looked at as has Richard Fleck. Dan Jaffe’s Dan Freeman gives us, in alternate prose and free-verse form, a capsule biography of Dan Freeman, the first man to file under the pro­ visions of the Homestead Act of 1862 and, in addition, a man strongly dedi­ cated to the defense and execution of his principles. I write this review at a time when I have just myself completed a trip from the eastern seaboard to my native West. I found myself, in spite of the number of times I have made the trip and in spite of whatever callous cosmopolitanism I can manage to affect, involuntarily impressed with the distance, the expanse, and the exhilaration of newness (even in the late 1960’s) which I feel as I climb up 76 Western American Literature and over the Appalachians, cross the Mississippi, and find myself at last on the great plains headed toward the Rocky Mountains still far to the west over the horizon. Let no one mistake the feeling: it is a thrill of a most genuine and primitive nature. It is not inappropriate to mention this here, because it is sometming of the same feeling that Dan Jaffe experienced when, a native of New Jersey, he headed for the first time into the raw untamed lands of the West in 1958 in his 1953 Chevrolet. As a native Westerner, I find that I must adopt a swaggering attitude as my initial reaction to this greenhorn from the East; I must take care that he be impressed with what he finds; that he be impressed with his inadequacy to measure up to his new surroundings; and that he be impressed with my calm, cavalier acceptance of what he regards so new and wondrous strange. But such chauvinism has its inherent limitations, and we are left with the sober realization that, even in 1958, the West still has much of its basic idealistic appeal. Dan Jaffe wishes to identify with what he finds, and it is in Dan Freeman the man, Dan Freeman the pioneer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 75-76
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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