Feb. 7, 1952

Dear Ron,

Needless to say, I was delighted to hear from you and to discover that you were still at your verse composition. You may remember my comment on Batch years ago after I saw it in Poetry (Chicago). It was about as neat an expression as one could come across in a magazine. Then I read other poems which gave me the feeling that you had a vein characteristically your own – not shared so consistently by any other writer. I encouraged you to continue because the vein could produce an undetermined number of nuggets.

I have gone through the whole of the manuscript and find that your gift for pleasant surprise is still with you.

I shall examine the poems one by one, leaving out just a few that I think do not quite measure up – a very few indeed. Another 'few' are open to criticism on minor points.

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  1. 'Chalices' is ambiguous in content, particularly the second line. It doesn't make the impact like the rest of the poems. In any case, I wouldn't put it first in the collection.

  2. 'Meaning': I am assuming here that the poem is a description of a matter-of-fact individual who would estimate intangibles by their weight, density or specific gravity. As such the poem is neat and subtle.

  3. Make Believe – excellent imagery with a quaint interpretation of a child's imagination. This is the sort of thing you do best.

  4. The Slave 'Other clods' disturbs me a little. So does the punctuation after 'climb.' The comma would indicate that 'agile' qualified 'I' whereas the sense demands 'slaves.' It might be made clearer with a stronger punctuation : ; – or .
    To avoid the repetition of 'law,' I'd suggest –
    'Beneath the law's indifference or/and its wrath.'

  5. Real Estate: gripping especially the 3rd & 4th lines.

  6. The Fool: most rhythmical; double rhymes well handled. Again a neat conclusion. Do more experimenting with those catchy 'doubles.'

  7. Remembered Rain: not quite up to the standard of the others. It might be revised, though retaining the 'concert master' image.

  8. June – with its clinching three last lines. Am a little bothered by the word 'bring' (6th line). Did you mean 'being'?

  9. Informers: Too slight

  10. First Snow: good phrasing – 'half a heart beat.'
    Last line out of metre.

  11. Hectic: superb in every line.

  12. Little Time: I do not like 'kissing some more'

  13. Change of Season: has good observation and description though the second line is strained.

  14. Star Dust is a good example of your poetic touch. The artistic blending of incongruous elements such as the 'H.R.E.' and 'Johnny Cake'; 'Hope deferred' and 'Montreal,' etc. This is delightful whimsy. The only line which might need slight alteration is the 5th, the repetition of 'formed.' The rest is very fascinating fantasy.

  15. Ecce Homo clear, simple and suggestive.

  16. The Crow has a fine concluding climax to a novel idea.

  17. Winter is Burning is an example of imagism current twenty years ago when writers aimed at securing clear-edged pictures in miniature. So with Sea Fight though with less clarity.

  18. Puffball resembles Star Dust with Make Believe 'one of plasticene' is perfect

  19. Folklore – an evolutionary parable: multum in parvo

  20. Diana Reproved: somewhat vague

  21. Andromeda: would suggest that the last two lines, though reserving the general picture, might be made to conform to the metre of the last two lines of the first stanza. The sharpness and compactness of the lyric do not allow for metrical variation.

  22. 63rd Anniversary: likewise halting in rhythm. Read it aloud.

  23. Hoar Frost: Fair: fifth line somewhat flat.

  24. Expanding Universe: vivid and powerful.

  25. The Date: original imagery. Syntax in last two lines questionable – 'done for.' I like 'cuff-link stars.'

  26. November: clear but thin

  27. Do Not Ask: very musical

  28. The Batch: your best mood. So overlapping Reality. Likewise Memo.

  29. Outermost Edge and Velocity: exceedingly good, fresh and smooth-running.

  30. The Triolet: observes the scheme of that light form. It is not labored and it has a witty ending.

  31. Rosetta Stone: like Star of David, has the artistic mixture of incongruous elements.

Now there you are Ron! You have a sensitive ear for words in their sound and their propriety in given contexts. The ideas are striking and the images apt. The occasional slightness of some of the ideas is rarely marred by overburden or undue moralizing. The whole collection hits me like a new note in Canadian verse. Here and there I come across short poems by other writers who display a similar technique but it is not sustained as in your case. That is another way of stating that you have an individuality.

I was pleased to see that Saturday Night and the Forum, particularly the S.N. played you up from time to time.

I would suggest this: send the other poems around to different magazines. If one rejects a poem, send it to another magazine. Get your name before the public as much as possible. It will help when the time comes to publish a collection. The publishers are reticent about placing an imprint on a relatively new name, but when an audience is formed there is a potential market.

Keep at it, old chap. I like the odd turns of phrase, the picturesque imagery and the clicking, unexpected but satisfying conclusions.

Yours,
Ned Pratt

p.s. I should gladly do this for you for nothing, but as I am more than semi-retired, I cannot refuse the munificent 'carrot.' It is really munificent.
N.P.


encuraged you to continue
Everson's verse appeared in magazines in the 1920s and he had begun writing again in the 1950s after years working in advertising.

Ecce Homo
The Latin words used by Pontius Pilate when he presents Jesus to the mob in John 19.5: 'Behold the man.'

multum in parvo
(Lat.) 'much in little.'

The Triolet
A triolet is a three stanza poem of eight lines, usually in iambic pentameter. In the rhyme scheme, the first, fourth and seventh lines are identical, as are the second and final lines.