10 by John, Poems by John Stanley/ Corentine Books, P.O.Box 23, Hobart, New York 13788./ Reviewed by Edmund J. Egan.
John Stanley, actor, writer, World War II veteran, Greenwich Villager, Catholic Worker, has given us, in his ninety-fourth year, an elegant booklet of poems, culled from a large trove of verses, entitled "10 by John." It is published by Corentine Books, alian Robert Steed, whose fine abstract painting adorns the cover he designed.
This selection shows forth varied modes of form and subject matter, but as a whole the poems are filled with anger, eloquence and compassion. The author manifests disdain for the respectable and powerful, while showing great empathy for the so-called "ordinery" human condition.
The poem "The Devouring Class" occasioned at the death of a very old and very rich heiress, shows an uncommon kind of angrilly visceral rebuke of the "filthy rich." Stanley's unabashedly vitriolic fury is as powerful as it is unusual.
On the other hand, in his evocation of street life in the Village, the poet's description of young men variously comporting at play, manages to be at once celebration and dirge.
In the linguistically rich and original imagery of these poems, there often lurks an ominous aspect of the world's surfaces and crevices. Sunlight
is seen "to hoch a clot of yellow light," "soot piles up day and night in the cracks and corners" and "one last sparrow, broken-winged is waiting for the cat."
Redemption comes, however, in the pushing forth of spring, and in sudden flashes of something like ecstacy. And, in fact, the poems' moments of celebration display an emphatically Dionysian sensibility. "Appolonian" aspects of order, measure and conformity are seen as a pall shrouding the life-force and the chance of love.
In this capacious ranging of poetic imagination, John Stanley has given us a fearful human landscape, met with both anger and affirmation.