I last saw Professor De Witt in Paris in 1970. As usual, I queried him about his poems. He surprised me by saying, "Some of them—a few—will be published in Ireland." His close relationship with the university community there evidently stimulated this publication.
Why Ireland? His preoccupation with the word green, which is not only in the title of this booklet, but which also appears in half the poems it contains, symbolizes his abiding affection for Ireland. It is interesting to note that his new book on poetic principles uses Dylan Thomas' "The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower" as the key illustrative poem. He refers to Ireland as "the last green thing in the Western world."
Professor De Witt's poetic impulse runs primarily to a critique of the violence in man. He is not, however, a crusading idealist who looks to the end of this violent impulse. On the contrary, he often repeats that "man must be violent—just as a cat must torture birds and mice; this quality is genetically determined, the nature of the beast." As he says in "Barber," man is a "cutting animal."
He believes, however, that violence in man can and should be controlled. Further, he holds that there exists in violence a "salvation factor: violence does not necessarily beget violence; its very horror can function as a powerful pacifier." He offers himself as an example:
"I had killed seventeen Japanese soldiers and civilians before my nineteenth birthday. And now I cannot fish, I cannot hunt—and cannot even spray the insects that plague us at our mountain retreat. Those seventeen bodies have served me well, but one existential fact of life is that I can never reciprocate."
He forgets to mention that he has also been serving well—as a writer, painter, professor, and editor (all back issues of his journal of esthetics, Blue Guitar, are on deposit at the British Museum). Would that all ex-Marines could serve as well.
William V. Amordalim, Ph.D., D.Litt.