June 18, 1955
My dear Louis:
Your Europe with its heart-warming inscription was forwarded to me from the College.
I read it twice and was delighted with it 'twice,' because the condensation of the language demanded renewed application to unravel the meaning and discover the aptness of the similes. Here, I thought, is something which combines the cerebral and the visceral. You may know that I have a special fondness for the latter as it is so basic to impulse and action.
The most primordial thing in the world is the sea and you made it sweep over me until I nearly went down for the third time.
And then, your use of resounding proper names struck my solar plexus. Besides this, the desolation of Europe and the sense of an unnamable future brooded over me. May I indicate a few passages, lines and words which specially held my attention.
I love the name Stephanie.
Cellophane, dollar bills of green, Donald Duck villages, the tamed moment of eternity.
An ice-floe could look like a seagull's wing granted the distance.
Sky-sperm; 'the sea salmon that dies in the mountains.' Simple statement but superb and in a sense tragic.
'luxurious ermine and leopard coat.'
Poem 10 is grand; so is the conclusion of 12.
'The conqueror sea revelling in its strength' is a simile faithful to its source. Its indifference (20) to the Lilliputians to the entertainment, etc.
'The landscape weeping like a watery Turner.'
47 is a fine study in contrast.
'The sea carving the architraves of the ragged rocks.'
I think 70 is the finest poem in the volume with 84 a close second, though 91 with its particularity of the number of shells on Reims 'the Euclidean cemeteries' makes me doubtful of the priority of the other two. I saw the poem in the Canadian Forum and it haunts me yet.
I could go on. The sea-imagery is so tumultuous that it makes Anderson's vaunted 'flow' sound like a stricture-piddle.
I am glad that McGill has you in the English Department.
A personal remark here. I haven't written a line since 'The Last Spike.' Reasons: my right eye has played out on me and (2) my daughter has to be in bed with a polio aftermath for a year, which absolutely destroys concentration for me.
Should you come to Toronto in the fall, let me know in advance so I can get the gang together with you in the festivities.