Sept. 24, '51

Dear Anne:

I had a pleasant hour or two over the week-end reading 'Counterpoint to Sleep.' It certainly justifies expectations and more. Let me point out some of the qualities of special interest.

  1. (1) Summer acres: phrases picturesque and musical –
    eyes – wired – willow
    heart – boughed – cedar
    ears – tied – tattle of water

  2. (2) Winter Sketch:
    'black extravagance of night,' good
    but 'crystal christen Christ' is uneuphonic because of excessive gutteral alliteration.

  3. (3) Folk Tale – 'the clear etceteras of a kiss' – fine, full of implied associations.
    'pools of pupils,' 'polar pull of blood' – excellent alliteration because, though you keep the same consonant, you give variety by changing the vowel sound four times. This is good craftsmanship.

  4. (4) Anxiety: 'octave' etc. I like the language & image.

  5. (5) Lake Song: Hopkins – wimple the beach.

  6. (6) I know not what to do, love: made for a musical setting.
    I like the whole of 'The Great Winds' with its subdued ending.
    Also the Psycho-Neurotic.

May I make two suggestions for the future?

  1. (1) a little simplification of the content wouldn't injure the verse. Some of the poems are very compressed owing to remoteness of allusion and imagery – a very common feature of present-day writing indeed, but there is a swing against too much ambiguity.

  2. (2) Work out further that delightful vein you have of playing variations on old themes.

    'I know not what to do love' I have mentioned.

    The Lord Randall variant is wonderful with its genuinely ballad characteristic of the dramatic surprise at the conclusion. It reminds me not only of Randall but of Edward: –

    'Why does your brand sae drop wi bluid
    Edward, Edward?
    .....
    The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir
    Sic counseils ye gave to me O.'

I should like to see the return of Song and ballad to our poetry today, and, dear Anne, I think you can do a lot to that end.

I notice your book is in Tyrells, and I am going to order some near Christmas time to hand to my friends.

More power to ye,
Ned Pratt


'Counterpoint to Sleep'
Counterpoint to Sleep was published in the New Writers Series (no. 8) by First Statement Press in 1951.

Winter Sketch
The full title of the poem is 'Winter Sketch, Rockcliffe, Ottawa.'

Folk Tale
'A Folk Tale/ With a Warning to Lovers.'

Anxiety
'Poem of Anxiety.'

Psycho-Neurotic
'To a Psycho-Neurotic.'

Lord Randall variant
'After the Ballad, "Lord Randall, My Son".'