In Tony Towle’s collection of poems . . . a mind coolly
classical contemplates its own romantic cast. His poems, in form related to the
elegiac and celebratory ode, disclose a sensibility altogether contemporary:
quick at insight, rich in its receptivity, and bold enough to use a full
orchestra of rhetoric. As in the work of the late Frank O’Hara, a love of music
and a profound understanding of it inform his use of words, but it is words
themselves which are seen to be what poetry is, first and last, exclusively
made of, not least in their appeal to, and expression of, the intelligence . .
. . A striking merit of Mr. Towle’s work is the way he has found to deal with
the disordered opulence of the Surrealist heritage by engaging the hermetic
clarities of dreams and the associative in the life which gives rise to them
and of which, he convinces us, they are an undetachable part. Poetry continues
to be one of the rarest of pleasures, and those who care about it can find here
a noble grace, dramatic and personal.
— James Schuyler,
from the jacket copy.
I can find nothing in it that excites, inspires,
invigorates, or in any way strikes the imagination.
— Jon M.
Warner, Hunter College Library, November 15, 1970
"I arrive with the years of my sleep / past the age of
Keats’s conclusion,” announces the very first poem in “North”, the first
“public” collection of the remarkable verse of Tony Towle, 31-year-old New York
poet whose work has previously been available only in magazines, anthologies,
and in two privately printed pamphlets. . . . “North” is an astonishing first
book, revealing a poet of great range, precise and deft use of language,
concentrated power. . . . it impresses as did, 10 and 15 years ago, the first
books of Creeley and Ashbery, Snodgrass and Howard, Bly and Wright. . . there
are eight or nine poems in “North” which will be read, I feel, for a very long
— Stuart Byron, The Village Voice, March 18,
a wife and daughter and supposedly good eyes, but all he gives us are
combinations of Frank O’Hara and Milton.
— San Francisco Book Review, November 1972
Towle has achieved his place by a particular elegance of
style involving lush imagery, lofty diction, a transparent use of metaphor,
and numerous devices of wit and rhetoric, all in the service of a seemingly
Romantic personality. . . .
The sheer speed with which he shifts from one image, idea,
even mood to another is dizzying. Most of the poems retain the appearance of
narrative, but somewhere just beneath the surface everything is in some stage
of apotheosis. . . . If he were not such a good craftsman . . . or if his ear
were not so good, or if he were truly or single-mindedly earnest, this sort of
foray into the poetic enormity could fall on its face. But he brings it off and the
book is resplendent.
— Charles North, The Herald, April 18, 1971