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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

ACROSS THE EDGE Gerrit Achterberg, Hidden Weddings: selected poems, translated by Michael O'Loughlin (Raven Arts Press) £3.95 H.C. ten Berge, The White Shaman, edited by Theo Hermans, translated by various hands (Forest Books) £6.95

Dutch poetry remains too little known here for most of us to feel secure in placing this figure or that; yet the lack of a context leaves a voice of sufficient power an ideal space in which to make its impact. This is notably the case with the sixty poems of Hidden Weddings selected from twenty volumes of the prolific Gerrit Achterberg (1905-62) published between 1931 and 1969. Achterberg's oeuvre in Dutch, like Hardy's in English, stops just short of a thousand pages, and the temptation to include more poems can only (given the quality of these) have been tempered by the fact that no selection could hope to provide more than a basic core of essential items, and so stimulate others to follow suit. Dublin's Raven Arts Press are to be congratulated on undertaking Hidden Weddings, though must be wondering why in the interim - the book was published in 1987 - their lead has not been followed by more prominent imprints.

Achterberg makes an immediate impression, as his translator very helpfully indicates, as an 'Orphic' poet, in both the restrictive sense - the principal addressee of these poems is a lost, and in real terms irretrievable, Eurydice - and the larger sense, as succinctly characterized (in Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language) by Gerald L. Bruns:

… it is always a poetry which exceeds the enclosure of the poem, because its meaning lies in the world which it brings into being, quite ...


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