George Starbuck's songs of protest are usually concerned with love, war, and the spiritual temper of the times. John Holmes believes that "there hasn't been as much word excitement . . . for years," as one finds in Bone Thoughts. Harvey Shapiro points out that Starbuck's work is attractive because of its "witty, improvisational surface, slangy and familiar address, brilliant aural quality . . .," and adds that Starbuck may become a "spokesman for the bright, unhappy young men. . . ."
Thomas Gunn, on the other hand, believes that Starbuck "is not even very elegant," but, Louise Bogan writes, his daring satire "sets him off from the poets of generalized rebellion."
After reading Bone Thoughts, Holmes hoped for other books in the same vein; R. F. Clayton finds that, in White Paper, the verse again stings with parody. Although Robert D. Spector wasn't sure of Starbuck's sincerity in Bone Thoughts, he rates the poems in White Paper, which range "from parody to elegy to sonnets, and even acrostic exercises," as "generally superior examples of their kind." In particular, Spector writes, when Starbuck juxtaposes McNamara's political language and a Quaker's self-immolation by burning, or wryly offers an academician's praise for this nation's demonstration of humanity by halting its bombing for "five whole days," we sense this poet's genuine commitment.