Collected Poems of Kenneth Fearing

KENNETH FEARING writes of his own work: ‘The idea underlying my poetry is that it must be exciting; otherwise it is valueless. To this end it seemed to me necessary to discard the entire bag of conventions and codes usually associated with poetry and to create instead more exacting forms which are based on the material being written about.’ A good many people besides Mr. Fearing, during the last twenty years, have been busy scrapping the same codes, which include rhyme, metre, and a ‘poetic’ vocabulary. ‘The material being written about’ is twentieth-century American city life: a life of street corners and advertisements, of drugstores and drugs, of drink, crime, women, the movies, the modern novel, and the stock markets. It is a life, as Mr. Fearing sees it, of emptiness, loneliness, and incessant heartless activity, and some of the poems create this with a savage and sardonic cynicism which is both ‘exciting’ and effective. But their range is very limited, since Mr. Fearing has but this one attitude, and can write only of material which can be treated in this spirit.
E. D.