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Criticism On Ridge Essay Research Paper F

Criticism On Ridge Essay, Research Paper F. Hackett "Lola Ridge’s Poetry" One of the hardest things in life, especially literary life, is to admit one’s significant

Criticism On Ridge Essay, Research Paper

F. Hackett

"Lola Ridge’s Poetry"

One of

the hardest things in life, especially literary life, is to admit one’s significant

emotions. Appropriate emotions are quite a

different story. Almost everyone, from

President Wilson down to the cheapest writer of advertising copy, has had practice in

meeting circumstance with just the right kind of propitiatory words. But outside this game of rhetoric, which is not

always so easy, there is the infinitely harder and finer art of self-expression–the art

of ascertaining as well as revealing self. To

give voice to significant emotions–that is the essence of poetry which in turn is the

essence of literature. What does one mean by

"significant"? One means, I

suppose, the emotions which determine personality and outlook and association and conduct. One means the emotions that are motive, that have

life in them and legs under them, whether they crawl underneath the surface of things or

come out above the surface and face a world. And

the poet, for me, is the person who is so related to life by imagination and meditation

that he can open out his emotions and find them truly significant–significant to himself

and to the person who is still shut in.

. . .

One

who seeks significant emotions rather than appropriate emotions in Miss Lola Ridge is not

likely to be unrequited. On the whole, it

must be said, she does not seem perfectly at ease in her art, and her illuminations are

most frequently the lightning-flash of analogy rather than the lyricism of full and steady

possession. But the heart of the matter, the

person of emotional significances, is there. Miss

Lola Ridge is capable of that powerful exaltation on the wings of real feeling which

brings a new world into vision. She is

capable of massing jeweled impressions until they seem to have the unity of a single

perception. More than once the wings of her

feeling seem to fall limp. She fails to share

the complete significance of which she herself is convinced. But when she does succeed, when the fullness of

her realizations is controlled and embodied, she is entitled to all the glory that is shed

by the name of poet.

In her

longest poem, The Ghetto, Miss Ridge seems to me to hover somewhere between

poetry and prose. A distinguished utterance The

Ghetto certainly is. It is beyond doubt

the most vivid and sensitive and lovely embodiment that exists in American literature of

that many-sided transplantation of Jewish city-dwellers which vulgarity dismisses with a

laugh or a jeer. The fact that Miss Ridge is

not a Jewess, is herself alien and transplanted, does not disqualify her vision. On the contrary, she is disengaged so that she can

move from reality to reality with a pure sense of the flood that immerses her. Could anyone less free see the "skinny hands

that hover like two hawks," or "newsboys with battling eyes," or a small

girl’s "braided head, shiny as a black-bird’s"?

The outsider alone, perhaps, could observe the "raw young seed of

Israel" and that insulted elder who, unperturbed, "keeps his bitter peace."

What

if a rigid arm and stuffed blue shape,

Backed by a nickel star,

Does prod him on,

Taking his proud patience for humility. . . .

All gutters are as one

To that old race that has been thrust

From off the curbstones of the world. . . .

And he smiles with the pale irony

Of one who holds

The wisdom of the Talmud stored away

In his mind’s lavender.

How

deep and sensitive the humanity of this passage, and yet The Ghetto as a whole

does not seem to me to possess the significance of emotion which would make it a great

poem, or even a poem. It ends with an

apostrophe to Life itself, but that envoy is pretty nearly rhetoric. It is insignificant compared to the stanza that

precedes it, beginning

Out of

the Battery

A little wind

Stirs idly–as an arm

Trails over a boat’s side in dalliance–

Rippling the smooth dead surface of the heat.

Why

has The Ghetto the genius of prose rather than poetry? Because, as I see it, it never achieves that

synthesis to which rhyme is so often an aid, the synthesis of an intense emotion never

relinquished. What is the intense emotion

conveyed by The Ghetto? None. Its suggestions and evocations are beautiful, and

it is fortunate that Miss Ridge gave form to them, but the significance they have for her

does not seem final, and poetry is final.

But

brief finalities are scattered all through The Ghetto. Seldom does Miss Ridge fail to keep imagination

swung open by her use of analogy. Take these

lines in Flotsam:

Figures

drift upon the benches

With no more rustle than dropped leaf settling–

Slovenly figures like untied parcels,

And papers wrapped about their knees. . . .

These

are not wretched strivings after novelty. Miss

Ridge naturally sees "a glance like a blow" or beholds a down-and-out woman on

the benches, "diffused like a broken beetle," or "caf?s glittering like

jeweled teeth," or "beetle-backed limousines" or "the drawn knees of

the mountain," or "the snow with its devilish and silken whisper." Each of these figures is just and illuminative,

not mainly witty like the reference to a gaudy hat, "With its flower God never

thought of." Miss Ridge is much more likely to be deep than witty, as when

she envisages the poor smiling mother "with eyes like vacant lots."

The

grip of Miss Ridge’s poetry is most secure in those few poems of hers where her

inspiration transcends her alert creativeness. "The

Everlasting Return" is her best inspiration, it seems to me, among the long poems,

and her poem of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 seems to me much the most perfect realization

of what I pedantically call significant emotion. It

is called the Tidings (Easter, 1916).

Censored

lies that mimic truth . . .

Censored truth as pale as fear . . .

My heart is like a rousing bell–

And but the dead to hear . . .

My

heart is like a mother bird,

Circling ever higher,

And the nest-tree rimmed about

By a forest fire . . .

My

heart is like a lover foiled

By a broken stair–

They are fighting tonight in Sackville street,

And I am not there.

Here

there is something more than ardent observation, something more than a legend of the reign

of labor. It is in lyrics like this, and the

lyric of the East St. Louis burning of a Negro baby, that Miss Ridge really forgets her

obligations to literature and fuses her emotion into her expression and becomes a full

poet. She loses her art to save it. But of course in the other strivings of her art it

is imperative to remember that Miss Ridge is an experimenter quite clearly centered in

that world of class struggle where poetry itself is still an aberration. In declining to adopt old forms, in preferring to

give even conventional sentiments about the north wind the liberation of free verse, Miss

Ridge is manifestly striving to reach a position unencumbered by the methods appropriate

to a different civilization. This striving is

not always brought to a happy ending in The Ghetto poems. Miss Ridge is not full master of any method or

medium. But her experiment is so obviously

necessary to her, so obviously part of a genuine development, that it would be absurd to

hold up her imperfections as something in the nature of things.

F.

Hackett, "Lola Ridge’s Poetry," rev. of The Ghetto and Other Poems, by

Lola Ridge, The New Republic, 16 Nov. 1918: 76-77.

Conrad Aiken

Excerpts from "The Literary Abbozzo"

The

Italians use the word abbozzo–meaning a sketch or unfinished work–not only in

reference to drawing or painting but also as a sculptural term. The group of unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo

in Florence, for example, takes this name; they are called simply abbozzi. The stone is still rough–the conception has only

just begun to appear; it has not yet wholly or freely emerged. There is an impressiveness in the way in which the

powerful figures seem struggling with the rock for release.

And it is no wonder that Rodin and others have seen in this particular stage

of a piece of sculpture a hint for a new method based on the clear enough esthetic value

of what might be called the provocatively incomplete.

. . .

Here

is a vivid personality [Ridge], even a powerful one, clearly aware of the peculiar

experience which is its own–a not too frequent gift.

It rejoices in the streaming and garishly lighted multiplicity of the city:

it turns eagerly toward the semi-tropical fecundity of the meaner streets and tenement

districts. Here it is the human item that

most attracts Miss Ridge–Jews, for the most part, seen darkly and warmly against a

background of social consciousness, of rebelliousness even.

She arranges her figures for us with a muscular force which seems masculine;

it is singular to come upon a book written by a woman in which vigor is so clearly a more

natural quality than grace. This is

sometimes merely strident, it is true. When

she compares Time to a paralytic, "A mildewed hulk above the nations squatting,"

one fails to respond. Nor is one moved

precisely as Miss Ridge might hope when she tells us of a wind which "noses among

them like a skunk that roots about the heart." It

is apparent from the frequency with which such falsities occur–particularly in the

section called Labor–that Miss Ridge is a trifle obsessed with the concern of being

powerful: she forgets that the harsh is only harsh when used sparingly, the loud only loud

when it emerges from the quiet. She is

uncertain enough of herself to deal in harshnesses wholesale and to scream them.

But

with due allowances made for these extravagances–the extravagances of the brilliant but

somewhat too abounding amateur–one must pay one’s respects to Miss Ridge for her very

frequent verbal felicities, for her images brightly lighted, for a few shorter poems which

are clusters of glittering phrases, and for the human richness of one longer poem, The

Ghetto, in which the vigorous and the tender are admirably fused. Here Miss Ridge’s reactions are fullest and

truest. Here she is under no compulsion to be

strident. And it is precisely because here

she is relatively most successful that one is most awkwardly conscious of the defects

inherent in the whole method for which Miss Ridge stands.

This is a use of the "provocatively incomplete"–as concerns

form–in which, unfortunately, the provocative has been left out. If we consider again, for a moment, Michelangelo’s

abbozzi we become aware how slightly, by comparison, Miss Ridge’s figures have

begun to emerge. Have they emerged enough to

suggest the clear overtone of the thing completed? The

charm of the incomplete is of course in its positing of a norm which it suggests,

approaches, retreats from, or at points actually touches.

The ghost of completeness alternately shines and dims. But for Miss Ridge, these subtleties of form do

not come forward. She is content to use for

the most part a direct prose, with only seldom an interpellation of the metrical, and the

metrical of a not particularly skilful sort. The

latent harmonies are never evoked.

One

hesitates to make suggestions. Miss Ridge

might have to sacrifice too much vigor and richness to obtain a greater beauty of form:

the effort might prove her undoing. By the

degree of her success or failure in this undertaking, however, she would become aware of

her real capacities as an artist. Or is she

wise enough to know beforehand that the effort would be fruitless, and that she has

already reached what is for her the right pitch? That

would be a confession but it would leave us, even so, a wide margin for gratitude.

From

Conrad Aiken, "The Literary Abbozzo," rev. of The Ghetto and Other Poems,

by Lola Ridge, The Dial 25 Jan. 1919: 83-84.

Babette Deutsch

Excerpts from "Two First Books"

[Poet and critic Deutsch reviews

Maxwell Bodenheim's Minna and Myself and Lola Ridge's The Ghetto and Other

Poems.]

They [Bodenheim and Ridge] approach

experience with the abandon of their lucidity. But

to read Bodenheim is to listen to chimes and flutings in a gallery that throws strange

echoes from its secret corners. To read Lola

Ridge is to shudder with the throb of unrelenting engines and the hammer on the pavement

of numberless nervous feet.

. . .

To

come from these quaint alleys [of Bodenheim] into the loud jostle of "The

Ghetto" is to be aware of the power of the latter at the cost of its intensity. That may be nothing more than the ultimate

difference between the symbolist and the realist. But

symbolism divorced from reality is purely vapid, and a realism too stark is like the

barren triumph of the intellect. . . . Not

that Lola Ridge is either cold or insensitive. But

her vision is no less limited than Bodenheim’s, if engaged with another scene, and her

violence is sometimes strident rather than stern. It

is curious that one should feel her the more immature of the two, more sincere in her

emotions and less earnest, or perhaps only less concentrated in her art. There are flashes of insight as clear as his, but

she cannot sustain her attack. She works on a

larger canvas, but her colors are all dull crimsons, orange, and sullen black. Bodenheim’s metaphors may come hurtling like

seven astounding flashlights crossing, braided, and swung through the night sky. Lola Ridge throws the glow of sudden lamps, sharp

and electric, but single and scattered. She

is capable of such a perfection as showing the Friday night candles,

"Coupling

other lights,

Linking the tenements

Like an endless prayer."

Or of

that final arresting picture, wherein Hester street,

"Like

a forlorn woman over-born

By many babies at her teats,

Turns on her trampled bed to meet the day."

And

she is also capable of such an anomalous confusion of New York’s east side with the

conventions of New England as to speak of an old Jew as

".

. . one who holds

The wisdom of the Talmud stored away

In his mind’s lavendar."

Nearly

all her poems are too long. Bodenheim may

pour a bright liquor into too narrow a jar, that will overflow in sweet drops on its lip. Lola Ridge brews a darker potion, an "iron

wine", but it lies in deep flagons, heavy to lift.

It is in the brief glimpse, the dark vivid drama of a phrase, that she

challenges ugliness and poverty and futile death. She

should be able to make hokkus that would sting and rend as her semi-epical efforts do in

sudden incisive moments. An angry mob is

terrible, but its anger is a thing diffused and obscure contrasted with the deep intensity

of an individual.

Both

of these poets are more penetrating when one reads single poems than when one accepts an

entire book. Bodenheim’s subtlety is apt to

become a labyrinth of crowding images; Lola

Ridge’s vigorous apprehension of life is apt to descend to the monotonous savagery of a

drum. Each retains, however, a rare and

exciting savor; the intriguing strength of those content to be solitary, the beauty of

those in whom the passions of the body are no more imperative than the passions of the

mind.

From

Babette Deutsch, "Two First Books," rev. of The Ghetto and Other Poems,

by Lola Ridge, The Little Review, May 1919: 65-68.

Alfred Kreymborg

"A Poet in Arms"

This

book is dedicated, in an introductory poem, To The

American People. In order to appreciate

fully the challenge of its seven lines, one should know that Lola Ridge is Australian by

birth. She came to this country fourteen

years ago.

Will

you feast with me, American people?

But what have I that shall seem good to you!

On my board are bitter apples

And honey served on thorns,

And in my flagons fluid iron

Hot from the crucibles.

How shall such fare entice you!

Indeed,

this small book holds little which could entice average American gentlefolk who are so

content with conditions as they are that they never disturb themselves as to their

composition or de-composition. These

conditions are subjected to the most uncompromising excoriation I’ve ever seen between two

American bookboards, through the twin media of conditions as they aren’t and as they

should be. In other words, Lola Ridge is a

revolutionist. She is a prototype of the

artist rebels of Russia, Germany, and Austro-Hungary who were the forerunners of the

present r?gime over there–men like Dostoievsky, Gorky, Moussorgsky, Beethoven, Heine,

Hauptmann, Schnitzler. I don’t mean that Lola

Ridge is that horrific creature, a masquerading propagandist. She is first and always an artist. In trumpeting for freedom, going to blows for it,

housing it in an art form, one unconsciously destroys its opposite. Love destroys hate and convention; libertarians,

demi-gods; artists, shackling traditions; form, formalism.

Beethoven hammered out nine symphonies, at least five of which were

revolutionary. Back in Waterloo time, he was denounced as a noisy lunatic, a savage

smashing old forms. On the contrary, he

created Beethoven without destroying Mozart, for Mozart was himself a revolutionary. Without hinting at comparison, I’d like to predict

that Lola Ridge will be charged with lunacy, incendiarism, nihilism, by the average

American who reads her book. The everlasting

minority will proclaim her another free singer, another creator of free form.

The

Ghetto is a magnificent pageant of the Jewish race in nine chapters. In this single work the poet surpasses the

dramatist, David Pinski, who is, in my opinion, easily the leading figure among the Jews

themselves over here, and perhaps the foremost writer for the theatre regardless of race

or language. Her uncanny range of knowledge

of the Jew and her realistic presentation of his lives are heightened and made plastic by

the magic of the detached imagination which hovers always a little above realism and

formulates its relative compositional values. Philosophically,

she is more robust than Pinski. In the final

analysis, she doesn’t see the Jew as a tragic type.

Bartering,

changing, extorting,

Dreaming, debating, aspiring,

Astounding, indestructible

Life of the Ghetto . . . . .

Strong flux of life,

Like a bitter wine

Out of the bloody stills of the world. . . . .

Out of the Passion eternal.

She

sees the future of the race more clearly than the Jews themselves. She prognosticates the Jew as one of the leaders

in the new world, and her vision is borne out by even a casual perusal of the present-day

names of men who are re-moulding Europe. For

sheer passion, deadly accuracy of versatile images, beauty, richness and incisiveness of

epithet, unfolding of adventures, portraiture of emotion and thought, pageantry of

push-carts–the whole lifting, falling, stumbling, mounting to a broad, symphonic rhythm,

interrupted by occasional elfin scherzi–well, The Ghetto was felt by a saint who wasn’t afraid to mix with

the earth, and recorded by a devil who must inevitably return to heaven. Perhaps Lola Ridge is only another Babushka

released from exile to a place of leadership among her contemporaries.

There

are a number of long poems, the best being Flotsam, Faces, The Song

of Iron, Frank Little at Calvary, The Everlasting Return and The Edge. Poe’s sentimental tirade against the long poem is

refuted here. There’s only room for a few

lines from Flotsam, but they give you the plot of the poem, and a reminiscence of

a Rembrandt etching.

This

old man’s head

Has found a woman’s shoulder.

The wind juggles with her shawl

That flaps about them like a sail,

And splashes her red faded hair

Over the salt stubble of his chin.

A light foam is on his lips,

As though dreams surged in him

Breaking and ebbing away. . . . .

And the bare boughs shuffle above him

And the twigs rattle like dice. . . . .

She–diffused like a broken beetle–

Sprawls without grace,

Her face gray as asphalt,

Her jaws sagging as on loosened hinges. . . . .

Shadows ply about her mouth–

Nimble shadows out of the jigging tree,

That dances above her its dance of dry bones.

The

Song of Iron is an exhortation to labor swinging to the rhythm

of a paean, and a warning to "Dictators–late Lords of the Iron." It recalls the exultation of the last movement of

Beethoven’s dance symphony, the Seventh. Underneath

the hammering rhythm, as relentless as a machine and as primitively nude as the animal,

surges the call of mate to mate. It is my

favorite poem in the book. Frank Little

at Calvary is more than a fictitious rendering of the last moments of the I. W. W.

leader, and suggests the part his execution may play in the future. The Edge–And I lay quietly on the drawn

knees of the mountain, staring into the abyss–is an ecstatic nature lyric closing on the

serene cadence,

And I

too got up stiffly from the earth,

And held my heart up like a cup. . . . .

In

some of her short poems, Lola Ridge participates in the crystallization of concentrated

strength achieved by Emily Dickinson, Adelaide Crapsey and H. D. There are, particularly, three in seven lines–D?bris,

Spires and Palestine–which

hark back in form and spirit to the seven-line dedication.

This is D?bris:

I

love those spirits

That men stand off and point at,

Or shudder and hood up their souls–

Those ruined ones,

Where Liberty has lodged an hour

And passed like flame,

Bursting asunder the too small house.

And

this is Palestine:

Old

plant of Asia–

Mutilated vine

Holding earth’s leaping sap

In every stem and shoot

That lopped off, sprouts again–

Why should you seek a plateau walled about,

Whose garden is the world?

In

these reconstructive days, liberty is being re-defined, nationalism is approximating

internationalism, the personal is trying to approach the impersonal. For myself, I must say that I cannot feel that

liberty, internationalism and the impersonal will ever be realized. But for every attempt made, however unsuccessful

of accomplishment, all the blood-drops in me are grateful and sing hosannas. They respond to Lola Ridge.

Alfred

Kreymborg, "A Poet in Arms," rev. of The Ghetto and Other Poems, by

Lola Ridge, Poetry, Oct.-March, 1918-19: 335-40.

Louis Untermeyer

Excerpt from "China, Arabia, and Hester Street"

In

spite of Kipling’s most-quoted couplet, there is more than a little in common between the

two hemispheres that are mirrored in these contrasting volumes. Kipling himself has grown to see (vide "The Eyes of Asia") that the Orient and

the Occident do meet, and meet on commoner ground than he ever imagined. So here, in four widely divergent poets, a kinship

is established not only between East and West, but between the Near East, the Far East,

and the East Side. It is a shifting but

universal mysticism that runs through these dissimilar pages, a hushed and sometimes

exalted blend of reality and idealization. Miss

Ridge achieves it most subtly; she accomplishes the greatest results with the least amount

of effort. Nothing is forced or

artificialized in her energetic volume, which contains some of the most vibrant utterances

heard in America since Arturo Giovannitti’s surprisingly neglected "Arrows in the

Gale."

"The

Ghetto" is essentially a book of the city, of its sodden brutalities, its sudden

beauties. It seems strange, when one considers the regiments of students of squalor and

loveliness, that it has remained for one reared far from our chaotic centres to appraise

most poignantly the life that runs through our crowded streets. Miss Ridge brings a fresh background to set off

her sensitive evaluations; her early life in Australia has doubtless enabled her to draw

the American city with such an unusual sense of perspective. Her detachment, instead of blurring her work,

focuses and sharpens it. The city dominates

this book; but the whole industrial world surges beneath it. "The Song of Iron," with its

glorification of Labor, is a veritable paean of triumph.

And yet, cut of these majestically sonorous lines, the still small voice of

the poet makes itself heard–a strangely attenuated voice with a tense accent, a fineness

that, seeming fragile, is like the delicacy of a thin steel spring.

Nowhere

does this distinction of speech maintain itself so strikingly as in the title-poem. Here, except for certain slight circumlocutions,

it approaches perfection. "The

Ghetto" is at once personal in its piercing sympathy and epical in its sweep. It is studded with images that are surprising and

yet never strained or irrelevant; it glows with a color that is barbaric, exotic, and as

local as Grand Street. In this poem Miss

Ridge achieves the sharp line, the arrest and fixation of motion, the condensed clarity

advertised by the Imagists–and so seldom attained by them.

And to this technical surety she brings a far more human passion than any of

them have ever betrayed. Observe this

description of Sodos, the old saddle-maker:

Time

spins like a crazy dial in his brain,

And night by night

I see the love-gesture of his arm

In its green-greasy coat-sleeve

Circling the Book;

And the candles gleaming starkly

On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face

Like a miswritten psalm. . . .

Night by night

I hear his lifted praise,

Like a broken whinnying

Before the Lord’s shut gate.

Or

turn to the picture of the aged scholar who smiles at the "stuffed blue shape backed

by a nickel star," smiles

. . . with the pale irony

Of one who holds

The wisdom of the Talmud stored away

In his mind’s lavender.

And

this, after running the gamut of emotional characterization, is "The Ghetto’s"

final cadence. (I cannot consider the poet’s

italicized addenda as anything but a rather rhetorical envoy which would have been more

effective as a separate poem):

Without,

the frail moon,

Worn to a silvery tissue,

Throws a faint glamour on the roofs,

And down the shadowy spires

Lights tip-toe out . . .

Softly, as when lovers close street doors.

Out of

the Battery

A little wind

Stirs idly–as an arm

Trails over a boat’s side in dalliance–

Rippling the smooth dead surface of the heat,

And Hester Street . . .

Turns on her trampled bed to meet the day.

Elsewhere

the same dignity is maintained, though with less magic.

Miss Ridge sometimes falls into the error of over-capitalizing her metaphors

and the use of "like" as a conjunction. The

other poems echo, if they do not always attain, the fresh beauty of "The

Ghetto." Such poems as "Manhattan

Lights," "Faces," "Frank Little at Calvary," "The

Everlasting Return," the brilliantly ironic "Woman With Jewels," the lyric

"The Tidings"–these are all sharply written in different keys, but they are

intuitively harmonized. They vibrate in

unison. The volume itself is not so much a

piece of music as a cry: a cry not only from the heart of a particularly intense poet, but

from the heart of an intensified age.

From

Louis Untermeyer, "China, Arabia, and Hester Street," rev. of The Ghetto and

Other Poems, by Lola Ridge, The New York Evening Post 1 Feb. 1919, sec. 3:

1+.

Alfred Kreymborg

Excerpt from Our Singing Strength

"Sun-Up"

is a quieter, mellower volume. The title poem

is composed of a series of Imagistic etchings limning incidents out of an Australian

infancy. The speech is authentically

childlike, and the episode with Jude particularly moving.

There are also some adult memoirs called "Monologues." The best poems in the book are the further songs

of rebellion: "Sons of Belial" and

"Reveille." . . .

"Red

Flag," issued two years ago, has a double interest: the entrance of Communist Russia

on the one hand and of traditional sonnets on the other. . . .The sonnets of Miss Ridge

are not the equal of her poems in free verse. None

the less, despite an awkward handling of metrics, her spirit pervades each poem. Of the Russian poems, "Snow-Dance For The

Dead," is a delicate elegy in which children are invited to undulate like the snow

and to "dance beneath the Kremlin towers" for soldiers fallen in the Red

Revolution. If Lola Ridge should ever die,

Russia ought to honor her at the side of Jack Reed. So

should Ireland, Australia, America, and every other land in whose heart freedom is more

than an worn-out word.

From

Alfred Kreymborg, Our Singing Strength, An Outline of American Poetry (1620-1930) (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1929) 486-88.

[Reed

was an American journalist best known for his account of the Bolshevik Revolution in

Russia (1917), Ten Days That Shook The World. He

founded the American Communist Labor Party and was buried in the Kremlin. His book became the basis of Russian filmmaker

Sergei Eisenstein's Ten Days That Shook The World (1927) and Warren Beatty's Reds (1981). Reds is available on Paramount Home Video VHS

1331.]

Horace Gregory and Marya Zaturenska

Excerpt from A History of American Poetry 1900-1940

Her [Ridge's] devotion was one that

can be described only in terms of a saintliness that Paul Vincent Carroll in his one

felicitous play, Shadow and Substance, gave to his memorable and vision-haunted

Irish heroine. Those who remember Lola Ridge

also remember the large, barely furnished, wind-swept, cold-water loft where she lived in

downtown Manhattan. The loft was verylike

some neatly, frugally kept cold-water flat in Dublin, and the unworldy presence of Lola

Ridge, a slender, tall, softly-speaking, thin-featured woman in a dark dress, heightened

the illusion of being in a place that was not New York, but was well in sight of Dublin’s

purple hills. Even as one rereads her books

one gains the impression that she regarded her social convictions and the writing of

poetry in the same spirit in which an Irish girl invokes the will of God by entering a

convent–but Lola Ridge’s devotion had turned to self-taught and protestant demands, and

the task, the almost impossible task, of making social and religious emotion a unified

being was an effort that remained unfinished at her death.

. . .

In Dance

of Fire Lola Ridge’s poetic maturity

began, and it was evident that in the sonnet sequence, "Via Ignis," which opened

her last volume, Hart Crane’s revival of Christopher Marlowe’s diction left its impression

upon her imagination. The poems were written

at a time when many of those who had read Hart Crane’s The Bridge felt the

implied force of Crane’s improvisations in archaic diction . . . .

Yet

despite their dignity and perhaps because of the high, disinterested motives of their

composition, the sonnets remained disembodied and curiously abstract. It was as though the poet had become aware of her

lyrical gifts too late to find the words with which to express them clearly; felicitous

lines and phrases flowed through the sequence of twenty-eight sonnets, and it is

impossible to reread them without respect for the saintly, unworldy motives that seem to

have inspired the interwoven themes of "Via Ignis." . . . Her moral courage and

her imaginative insights seem to have reached beyond her strength, and if her devotion to

poetry and the frustrations of the poor fell short of accomplishment in the writing of a

wholly memorable poem, her failure was an honorable one.

For the literary historian her verse provides a means of showing that the

younger writers of the 1930’s [sic] were not the first to rediscover the ghettos of New

York in a city that was all too obviously ill at ease between two wars. And few of those who followed the direction she

had taken wrote from the selfless idealism of Lola Ridge. . . .

From

Horace Gregory and Marya Zaturenska, A History of American Poetry 1900-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1942) 445-47.

[See

also Hart Crane]

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