Brian Hooker's Verse

Poems, Fairyland. By Brain Hooker. Yale University Press. Each $1.

THESE two volumes, together with the opera “Mona,” which won the Metropolitan Opera company’s prize four years ago, should place Mr. Hooker well up among the dozen American lyric poets who are likely to be remembered. While the author’s favorite themes are fantastic in the extreme, being related to the life of men only through a remote symbolism, yet such is the singing quality of his verse that even the matter-of-fact reader is likely to succumb to the poet’s sorcery. And this is a considerable triumph in a time much given to material seeing. Perhaps at the present moment Mr. Hooker’s outlook is too exclusively sensuous, too little intellectual for a great poet, unless a second Swinburne is to be expected. One is inclined to feel that Mr. Hooker may have found life to gentle a nurse so far. Everywhere there are suggestions of the precocious youth to whom the world is still an abstract proposition, though the author is half way through the thirties. One seeks in vain for a glimpse of raw human experience won through punishment that really hurts and leaves its mark. There seems to be too little of what may be called the Aeschylus principle in his cosmos. This may be a matter of temperament, largely; and if so, it is a serious limitation. But one comes very often upon lines so clean-cut and forceful that one is persuaded to trust in the chastening power of time to finish what has been so admirably begun. And it must be granted here that one’s judgment of Mr. Hooker’s achievement so far depends chiefly upon one’s conception of art and its function; that is to say, if art is to be regarded as a means of escaping life, then the present trend of Mr. Hooker’s gift may lead him to the heights; but if, as there seems reason to believe, art is to be regarded as a means of accepting life by representing it in terms of what is abiding and above criticism, then Mr. Hooker leaves much to be desired.