January 26, 2007

Perloff on Ferenc Juhász

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In The Huntress, Petit makes her own poem out of Juhász’ long poem, ‘The Boy Changed into a Stag Clamours at the Gate of Secrets’, but what is so special about Juhász and why does Petit use his poem in this way? Perloff suggests in this essay that at the time of writing, there are three registers for poetry: ‘the low or plain-colloquial’ (e.g. the New York poets), ‘the middle or observational-meditative’ (e.g. Confessional poets) and ‘the high or ceremonial grand’ (117). Ferenc Juhász falls into this last category, a mode designed ‘to convey the poet’s all but inexpressible and momentous experience of otherness’ (118). For Perloff, Anglo-American poets can, ‘never quite express the naked and almost unbearable passion found in Juhász’s work’ (118). In considering his collection The Boy Changed Into A Stag, Perloff suggests that Juhász, ‘has none of self-consciousness characteristic of much of our visionary poetry; it has a strange sense of inevitability, as if its maker were not so much writing a poem as uttering a cry from the heart’ (118).

Perloff now offers some thoughts on the technical aspects of Juhász’s art and suggests that the two most pertinent techniques are repetition and ‘the catalogue’. Perloff admires the way in which Juhász builds up ‘strings of nouns’ in ‘paratactic units’ (parataxis being clauses joined without conjunctions) and also enjoys Juhász’s use of anaphora (repetition for effect), internal repetition and strings of appositive phrases (i.e. phrases that refer to the same person or thing and have the same relationship to other sentence elements) (118).

Perloff also comments on Juhász’s relationship with nature using ‘The Boy Changed into a Stag Clamours at the Gate of Secrets’ as an example:

In Juhász’s powerful myth, the Mother, an abstract, generic female figure like those of Lorca, finally loses the Prodigal Son, whose future depends on his ability to cut the knot. To be human, the poet implies, is to suffer, and accordingly, the greatest virtue one can exercise is energy—the power to survive in the marvellous but terrible world of nature. (121)

Perloff, Marjorie J. ‘Review: Poetry Chronicle:1970-71’. Contemporary Literature. Vol 14, no. 1 (winter 1973), 97-131.

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