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This review is taken from PN Review 186, Volume 35 Number 4, March - April 2009.

IDEAS RATHER THAN THINGS NILOS STANGOS, Pure Reason: Poems by Nikos Stangos,Introduction and notes by David Plante (Thames & Hudson) £18.95
KATERINA ANGHELAKI-ROOKE, The Scattered Papers of Penelope: New and Selected Poems, edited by Karen Van Dyke (Anvil) £8.95

The posthumous Thames & Hudson edition of Nikos Stangos’s (1936-2004) works is sumptuous. The poet’s partner, the novelist David Plante, has selected the poems, and the book includes 44 illustrations which survey the reach of Stangos’s influence as a director of Thames & Hudson. The influence of his poems, however, is more difficult to gauge. Included by Nanos Valaoritis in his 92-poet An Anthology of Modern Greek Poetry (2003), this is Stangos’s only other English-language publication. Plante suggests in his introduction that Stangos had no ambition for his poetry; others seem to have been keen to create an ambition for him.

The poems themselves are full of ideas, rather than things,and reading them makes for an interesting contrast with the Anglo-American Imagist tradition. However, a number of the poems revel in their ideas and thoughtfulness, so much so that there is little to hold on to at the end of the poem. Take these lines from the longish ‘How Could Speech Exhaust the Meaning of Speech’:

Regression, repetition, rhetoric,
Seductive metaphors sought in a dream,
The object of desire the single phrase
Which will contain all meanings.

What we were taught were double meanings,
Unstructured texts of deep symbolic lineage,
Symptoms of language with split figures,
Ambiguous numbers that conceal the real.

There is something fresh in the approach of this poem (included in the Valaoritis anthology, where a note indicated it was ...


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