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Missed the Essence

April 13, 1986

Kenneth Funsten's review (The Book Review, Feb. 23) of Max Benavidez's "The Stopping of Sorrow" has missed the essence of this book of poetry. Benavidez, a poet keenly sensitive to the lonely reality of the urban condition, communicates to us his "subterranean truth," the secret lyrical confessions of his deepest feelings. But reviewer Funsten prosaically measures each poetic insight on the Procrustrean bed of his own world view. This critic mistakes social alienation for alienation from the emotions.

What is worse, Funsten attempts to proscribe an upbeat Utopian function for poetry: " . . . we must begin to delineate not what was but what should be, . . . the possible shape of the heaven to be," he says. Yet hope (like identity and love) cannot be commanded. Nor can it be forced through denying and suppressing the soul's periods of genuine despair.

Max Benavidez puts us in direct touch with his inner vision. Kenneth Funsten's review, on the other hand, filled with such vague characterizations as "awfully pedestrian," "not very becoming," "maddening" and "pathetic," may reflect his own state of mind, but sheds no light on this fine book of poetry.

RAFAEL PEREZ SANDOVAL

Los Angeles

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