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This review is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

DRUMMOND KIT DRUMMOND ALLISON, Collected Poems, edited by Stephen Benson (Bishop's Stortford College) £12.99

Drummond Allison was killed in Italy during the Second World War, at the age of 22. To someone who was not even around when England won the World Cup, the years 1939-45 have come to mean nothing else than the war. Nearly all the poems were written between 1939 and 1943, when Allison died, but until some of the last the war hardly impinges; when it does enter the poems it is often just part of the uncertain background of late-Thirties depression and hopelessness:

Till from bared girders and half-
  broken blocks
Where still thin typists gape from offices
He comes to Croydon, to the
  scratching cocks
In bricked back gardens,
  prematurely says
'Here there survives' -
  then the Masonic cage
Marks, and the dread symbolic
  Orphanage.
             ('The Return to Suburbia')


This is partly because until mid-1942 Allison led a civilian existence as a student in Oxford; and he was killed within three weeks of being sent to the front, so he was never in a position to write war poems in the manner of Wilfred Owen or Keith Douglas. But one might think the impalpableness of the war in Allison's poems a correlative of the way it was experienced, of the difficulties of getting a grip on its threat of meaninglessness.

The Collected Poems of Drummond Allison contains poems otherwise published in Eight Oxford Poets (1941), edited by Sidney Keyes and ...


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