- Headlands, Rising by Robert Krieger, and Winter Constellations by Richard Blessing, and Corners in the Glass by Ralph Gustafson (review)
- Western American Literature
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 13, Number 1, Spring 1978
- pp. 104-106
- View Citation
- Additional Information
104 Western American Literature from Virginia’s damp woodlands to California’s High Sierra and her rolling blue sea. (from the Introduction) Crooked Road is a fine, well-written book, documenting the last of the great overland trails. Just as the Alaska part of America’s frontier has so far been little written about, so too is the literature of Alaska still in its early stages. Crooked Road is a pioneer’s book — in more ways than one. GEARY HOBSON, Albuquerque, New Mexico Headlands, Rising. By Robert Krieger. (Boise: Ahsahta Press, 1977. 36 pages, $2.50.) Winter Constellations. By Richard Blessing. (Boise: Ahsahta Press, 1977. 35 pages, $2.50.) Corners in the Glass. By Ralph Gustafson. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977. 92 pages, $4.95.) Headlands, Rising, a first collection of poetry, comes with an introduc tion by a close friend and associate, who has nothing but sheer admiration for the poet. It is a subjective display of enthusiasm couched in superlative terms. Such an introduction is likely to act as a disservice to the poet, for it may turn the reader off even before he sits down to read the poems. Even though one is reluctant to accept a friend’s uncritical judgment, one is impressed by the quality of some of the poems, as one realizes that it is the poet’s first collection. In general, most of the poems succeed in producing a “sense of place,” a feeling for the unspoiled wilderness of the Northwest: “Oregon rolls to our eye as well as ear, / Jangling as the sea, a bull-horn of winds.” Some of the images have indeed a striking quality about them, as the introduction rightly claims. I may pick out some examples at random: “A mountain that walks the street like a doe” (“Geographic”) ; “Where mountain-wash pours / Rainbow through its flume” (“Chinook”). Here is a lover of nature, who seems to have caught its spirit in the wilds of the Northwest. In spite of the quality of the poems in this anthol ogy, it is difficult to equate him with Hopkins, Wilbur, Roethke, or Kunitz. We have to wait for some more collections before we can dare compare him with significant voices in English and American poetry. Richard Blessing is thirty-eight years old, and this is his first collection of poetry. But there is nothing youthful about this anthology. The emotion that dominates this collection is sadness, and the color, gray: Love is lost; wives have gone away; children are dead; fathers grow only to be old. Reviews 105 This seems to be the burden the poet carries on his young shoulders. Winter becomes an appropriate setting for this sad state of affairs. But the tone of the poems is not bitter, the temper, hardly violent. There is a remarkable control of emotions that marks most of these experi ments. When his son dies, the poet simply says: “Today we fold and put away / the practiced syllables of a name.” When life becomes a losing game, he addresses his father by saying: “Father, these days I lose and lose / and you were right, / no one loves me.” About dying he says in “Last House” : “What does it matter? / you walk in and walk in and never walk out.” The poems are never philosophical; they are almost always pragmatic in their approach, which gives them a kind of athletic strength of acceptance. Perhaps it is only a pose; the underlying sentiment one feels, while reading these poems, is “the pity of it all.” Sometimes the poet tries to be wise, as in: “Growing up is growing down.” It turns out to be more witty than wise. These poems are limited in range mostly to domestic themes: father, mother, son, wife, and so on. His experiences are interwoven with the harshness of winter that underlines the constancy of despair. When he occasionally sings of hope, he is least convincing and most flamboyant: This evening I find all I have lost in the sky. There is the basket I raised for my son and there is the net of stars raining down. Sometimes he achieves beautiful music, as in his lines: An ambience of amber light...