Reviews

Gentle Northern Summer

Norbert Ruebsaat

Recently I was thinking about the difference between Brecht's poetics and Rilke's. Brecht seems to be entirely ironic. He wrote sarcasm and satire, and his poems are a constant invective against the powers that oppressed him. Rilke, on the other hand, entirely lacked irony. He wrote like a child with his eyes and ears and mouth wide open to the world and seemed to have no sense of its falsehoods and betrayals. It is well known that Brecht's work was violently censored by the Nazis (who would have killed him if they had caught him), whereas Rilke's was quietly (perhaps even patiently, fondly) condoned. And I've often wondered about this, because I love both writers equally. This conundrum came back to me when I read George Stanley's Gentle Northern Summer (New Star), which is a beautiful and powerful book in every way. Stanley is perhaps the most important inheritor (some have called him the sole survivor) of the fabled San Francisco Poetry Renaissance which so startled everyone in the fabled Sixties—and it suddenly occurred to me (this morning, in fact) that he combines Rilke's and Brecht's sensibilities; that this is why I like him. In fact love him. I can't say anything more about that except to encourage you to read this book. Stanley combines logging and lyricism, the mall and the muse, the language and the life as I have almost never heard it done in the work of contemporary English-speaking poets.

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Norbert Ruebsaat

Norbert Ruebsaat has written many articles for Geist. He lived in Vancouver and taught at Simon Fraser University.


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