casual, sloppy, prolix instant poemsrnwhere verbal brilliance and fresh,rnhardworking metaphor are censored asrnunrepresentative of democratic mediocrity.rnLieberman may well understand butrnhe never touches on the idea that the effectrnof spontaneity, in poetry or anythingrnelse, usually requires the artifice, thernstructuring, of revision. Even TheodorernDreiser revised, though he still seemsrnto drag the whole “real life” thing,rnwith all its irrelevancies, banalities,rnstutterings, and redundancies, ontornthe page. Shelley’s manuscripts showrnthat he made numerous drafts ofrnhis seemingly extemporaneous larkrnsong. Spontaneities—feelings, images,rnmetaphors, rhythms, lines that springrnright into the light and prove to be acceptablern—are part of the operation, butrnthey seldom make a whole poem thatrnhas a chance of lasting past the artificialrnlife-support of grants-in-aid and cliquernpuffery. What comes spontaneously isrnoften what comes off the top of thernhead, or out of feelings not really sortedrnout. About what comes naturally there isrnnothing inherently rich and strange—rnwhich may explain why so many of thernpoems Lieberman admires are seldomrnrich (though often strange) and arerndemocratically flat, leveled into the banalrntop-of-oneself made up of cliches,rntrendy jargon, and social-political Pavlovwords.rnThere is something satisfying aboutrnbeing allowed to reach one’s own emotionalrnand aesthetic conclusions. Liebermanrnhas no need to insist on insistingrnthat in “Suburban Surf” Robert Lowellrnachieves (my italics) “an astonishing newrnpoesy”; that W.S. Merwin is a “prince ofrnalchemists,” one of whose later poemsrn(“Gift,” which some readers will findrncolorless and melodramatic) “approachesrnecstatic generosity of spirit”; thatrnTheodore Roethke—”I shudder everyrntime I think of the poems he might havernwritten had he lived”—is a poet ofrn”profound humanness and tenderness”;rnthat William Stafford possesses “enduringrnresources of human warmth and personalrnintimacy” (I thought humanistsrnthought almost everyone possessedrnthose qualities); that Frederick Morganrnhas a “prodigious reservoir of… intellectualrnresources” (many of us went tornschool and can read). Chekhov advisedrna fellow writer to “Try to be somewhatrncolder. . . . The more objective you are,rnthe stronger will be the impression yournmake.”rnLieberman does raise some interestingrnissues, especially in the three sections onrnRobert Lowell and in the essay on A.R.rnAmmons, which is the most intelligentrncommentary to date on that poet.rnLieberman is also completely free of thatrncold egotism, now fashionable in thernuniversities and everywhere in feministrncriticism, which extols the divine gift ofrncriticism and rises superior to the poems,rnwhose sole justification is to providernmaterial for the expatiation of one’s ownrnenlightenment and relevance. Liebermanrndoes love the poems.rnRobert Beum writes from Lincoln,rnNebraska.rnThe New Bowdler^srnby Mark RachornThe New Fowler’s Modern EnglishrnUsage, Third EditionrnEdited by KW.BurchfieldrnNew York: Oxford University Press;rn864 pp., $25.00rnSo there is a new Fowler, or ratherrna Burchfield. It joins the list ofrnbeloved reference works corrupted or destroyedrnto placate our ignorance and ourrnpolitical sensibilities. Brewer’s Dictionaryrnof Phrase and Fable had many of itsrnsupposedly dated items excised to makernroom for television trivia. The EncyclopediarnBritannica traded the wit and stylernof previous editions for turgid scientism.rnNow it is the turn of H.W. Fowler’srnModern English Usage to go under thernknife.rnWhen Fowler was first revised by SirrnErnest Gowers in 1965, the body of workrnwas left mostly untouched. Sir Ernestrnmerely added the more obvious newrnusages and some amusing articles ofrnhis own—”abstractitis,” “headline language.”rnHowever, this new edition, apartrnfrom the robbery of his name, has nothingrnto do with Fowler, and its appearancernindicates the extent to which the Englishrnlanguage has been assaulted and pollutedrnby the political commissar.rnIn 1965, Sir Ernest wrote a tribute tornhis predecessor in which he describedrnFowler’s experience in the Great Warrnand called his book incomparable; Dr.rnBurchfield, in his preface, chooses torninsult Fowler. Fowler wrote in “isolation.”rnHis work is “vulnerable.” “It isrnnot, of course, as antiquated as Aelfrie’srngrammar, nor yet as those of Ben Jonsonrnand Robert Lowth. But it is a fossilrnall the same.” (Burchfield also misspellsrnthe name of the school where Fowlerrntaught—perhaps there is a “Sedburgh”rnin Burchfield’s New Zealand; in Yorkshirernthere is Sedbergh).rnBy enlisting as a neutral in the greatrncultural war of our time. Dr. Burchfieldrnhas neglected his duty. There are scoresrnof politically correct style handbooks onrnthe market: Fowler is supposed to be thernopposite, prescriptive rather than descriptive,rncantankerous, suspicious of thernnew, and offensive to those whomrnThomas Sowell calls the “anointed.” Inrntaking a Laodicean position. Dr. Burchfieldrnhas given aid and comfort to the enemy,rnand destroyed the spirit of the workrnhe was supposed to be revising.rnHe says that he is not a pessimist: “Irnam sure that the English language is notrncollapsing—more severe changes haverncome about in the past centuries thanrnany that have occurred in the twentiethrncentury.” This is disingenuous; previousrnlinguistic changes, however “severe,” occurredrnnaturally and were not coerced.rnGhanges were made on aesthetic, notrnpolitical grounds. There were no grandrnschemes to purify the language. Today,rnour morality resides not in religion but inrnpolitics, and our politics have becomernour religion; the English language liesrnbesieged by those for whom sin is denotedrnby class (upper), attitude (conservative),rnskin color (white), sex (male),rnfaith (Christian), and sexual orientationrn(heterosexual). Singly, or in combination,rnthese are the evils that are to bernexpunged from modern English usage.rnThe commonest words and usagesrnare under attack. Fanatical editresses (asrnFowler would have called them) searchrnfor the neutral “he” and “him” to changernto “she” and “her.” Hardened copy editorsrnswoon at the sight of “Negro” orrn”housewife” or “chink” (I know someonernwho was brought up on charges at arnuniversity for writing the phrase “a chinkrnin his armour”). “Gay” is gone, andrn”queer” is fast being lost. Even “black,”rnas in “a black mood,” “black with rage,”rn”night’s black agents,” has been deemedrnoffensive. We need Fowler—the realrnFowler—more than ever.rnMark Racho writes from New York City.rn38/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn