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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 22 September 17, 1969

A Pallid Reflection

A Pallid Reflection

Shadow Show . A volume of Poems by Ruth Dallas. Price $1.50. Published by Caxton Press.

This volume of Ruth Dallas' poems will be an inspiration to the preserver of miniscule experience and the despair of the reader looking for poetic breadth, strength and originality. It can not be denied that her poems are pleasant and offer lyrical, but to a healthy appetite they do not even fill the role of the poetic hors d'oeuvre.

Subjet matter should not necessarily confine a poet—rather, a wider application is generally intended, but Miss Dallas's verbal miniatures such as 'The Fly", "Seedling", "An Office Cyclamen" too often only fulfil the exacting limitations of their titles. The analogies are there, but their impact lost in Miss Dalas's rather flat verse and uninspired metaphores.

Occasionally one of her visual and psychological observations does come to life and she catches the spirit of a particular occasion. Examples are her poems "Moods of a Day", "The Berry Pickers" and "The Fairground". Possibly her most successful poetry is her song/poems with their ballad lilt and easy rhythm. An example is "Pioneer Blues".

"From a ship's plank sea sodden
Beating on a knife shore
Can a winger seed break?
Over, it is over.
On a warrior's head, smoked
Teeth and scant hair
Does the lover's mouth purse?
Over, it is over.
Tall as a man O,
Brambles on the grave grow Over.
Hands that shape a stone wall
Cement their own memorial
And it is over."

Unhappily for the most part however, this simplicity becomes merely facile and the lyrics more uneasy. When this pedestrian style takes over Ruth Dallas' poetry suffers the fate of being ungrammatical, uninventive and faintly boring. In such a story/ poem as "The Enchanted Prince" the unhappy situation of the unsupported tinsel and icing shows that Miss Dallas having abandoned any personal style, having abandoned any satisfying content has finally abandoned her poetry.