Academic journal article Chicago Review

To D.S. Savage

Academic journal article Chicago Review

To D.S. Savage

Article excerpt


When Rexroth asked O.S. Savage (1917-) if he would contribute to the New British Poets anthology (New Directions, 1949) he gained a friend and ally. Their correspondence ran without significant interruptions throughout the 1940s and was fueled by their desire to provoke new values and standards for society. Savage, a wartime conscientious objector, worked for years in an assortment of ill-paying jobs while raising a family and establishing himself as a fiercely independent poet and critic. Rexroth found Savage's radical humanism an apposite bulwark against what he considered to be the dominant Anglo-American orthodoxy in literature. He admired Savage's literary study, The Personal Principle (Routledge, 1944), and shared the young poet's conviction that genuine community transcends economic and social differences and sanctions the inner value of persons. Disagreements concerning Blake or Lawrence or Boehme notwithstanding, Rexroth was grateful for their friendship, as this passage from The Dragon and the Unicorn testifies:

Over the hills and fields to

Derek Savage's thatched day

Cottage in a narrow moist

Valley by a ruined mill.

Three days of hospitality

And passionate talk. How good

To meet someone in this world

With his own convictions and

Careless of gossip and fashion.

The only young English poet

Of working class extraction

Barker is Irish, Thomas, Welsh

But certainly by far the most

Distinguished both in appearance

And opinions.

Max Blechman

31 January 1946

692 Wisconsin St.

San Francisco, CA

Dear Derek Savage,

Your letter is fine. It is very good of you to send all those addresses. It isn't at all easy to find one's way around London when one is on the other side of the world.

You should know by now, I have a very flip manner of expressing myself in correspondence. I don't actually plan to include anybody or include anybody out on the basis of their ideology. I am not an utter idiot. I do think that wartime British verse shows a very definite tendency. A return to the person-the I-you communication-both philosophically and stylistically. I can remember when all the girls would shiver when somebody said-"A poem that uses the personal pronoun is ipso facto a bad poem." A return to simplicity-no longer the frantic effort to get at least the leading Seven and if possible an Eighth Ambiguity into every line-the "made-up" (D.H.L.) Cambridge don sort of exercises popularized over here by the Partisan Review. A political reorientation since the Spanish war. Why did the British boys seem to have seen the Spanish war more clearly than the Americans? Possibly it is due to the enormous strength of Stalinism over here. Plenty came back disillusioned enough, but in a few months they were back at their units-there was no place else for them to go. Liston Oak-head of the Stalinist press bureau in Spain, came back calling himself an anarchist-wrote a few articles for the Vanguard before it folded, and ended up as editor of the New Leader-a social-democratic-white guard sheet if there ever was one. Of course he gets a good salary. Whether Eric Gill, or Kropotkin, or Berdyaev, or Tolstoy, or Lawrence, or whoever-the British intelligentsia seems to be picking up a new set of ancestors. And they do all have one thing in common-belief in the integrality of man, and disbelief in the pretensions of the state. (Politico-religiously speaking, I guess my "ancestors" are Schweitzer, Fr. Tyrrell, Berdyaev, Lawrence, Berkman, Gorter, Luxembourg. Make of that what you will. (Maybe a bit of Arthur Avalon, too.) I guess I read too much. I grew up in the "revolutionary movement," once made a detour and studied for Anglican Orders.) I think there is another thing-a sort of dreamy, moody way of writing-not just Neoromanticism-everybody seems to be affected with it-an elegiac temper-ruminative-pensive. …

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