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This review is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

DOOMED YOUTH DRUMMOND ALLISON: Collected Poems, edited with an introduction by Stephen Benson (Bishop's Stortford College, CM23 2QZ) £12.99

Undergraduate poets come and go, and usually leave no trace. But once in a while certain individuals or groups are remembered, because of unusual talents or by the accidents of history. This is peculiarly true of the contributors to Eight Oxford Poets, edited by Sidney Keyes and Michael Myers, and published by Routledge in 1941. Three of them, Keyes, Keith Douglas and Drummond Allison, were later killed in the war, while two others, who are still alive and active, were to achieve literary distinction, Myers as an authority on Scandinavian drama and John Heath-Stubbs as a poet and scholar. Keyes won instant fame after his death in 1943, just short of his twenty-first birthday; his posthumous second collection The Cruel Solstice went into several editions and his Collected Poems were published in 1945. Keyes' precocious, hot-house talent has not worn well; he was a sensitive, bookish poet, of great technical accomplishment, but without very much to say. Keith Douglas's reputation was slower to take off. and it was several years before his poems were properly edited, but he is now generally accepted as the finest British poet of the Second World War.

Drummond Allison was twenty-two when he died. Like Keyes, and unlike Douglas. he had not seen enough action to write any 'war poems' in the strict sense. Posthumously, he has fared worst of the three. He had prepared a collection of poems, The Yellow Night, and had corrected the proofs shortly before he died: it ...


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