Donald Davie: On "Exodus"

Granted that Oppen does not discard rhetoric for non-rhetoric (which last is an impossibility), but rejects an old rhetoric for a newer one, we have to admire what the new rhetoric permits him to do. In the first place it opens up for him, as it sometimes did for Williams, an extraordinary directness and gentleness in intimacy. . . .

Indeed, in the world that Oppen charts about him as he thinks of approaching his end, so hedged about as it is with apprehension and misgivings, this particular tone embodies so much of what he can still feel grateful for and sanguine about, that the newer rhetoric justifies itself on this count alone. And it is quite true that the older rhetoric cannot compass this tone of voice. It speaks again on the last page of this slim but substantial collection, in a poem called "Exodus":

[Davie quotes the poem]

I would call that (though the word may give offence) elegant as well as touching. And I would say indeed that the elegance and the touchingness depend upon each other.


Title Donald Davie: On "Exodus" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Burton Hatlen Criticism Target George Oppen
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 27 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Notes on George Oppen’s Seascape
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