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This review is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

A SPELL AND AN APOCALYPSE William Cookson, Spell, A Sequence (Agenda Editions) £1.50 pb.
Peter Russell, Quintilii Apocalypseos Fragmenta (Agenda Editions) £1.50 pb.

From Agenda Editions, two books of poetry inhabiting contrasting worlds: an intimate sequence of love poems and a hard-hitting satire. Two strategies against sterility. Both poets are noted Poundians, and would wish their work to be judged on his poetic principles: making it new; direct treatment of the object; economy of means. Few attempt such a programme, and even fewer succeed in it; so it is good to read two collections that achieve these ends, and with such differing results.

Cookson's Spell is a sequence of twelve short poems and a coda - hardly enough, one would think, to conjure up its own world. Yet it does just that, calling out of darkness a briefly experienced love. Images of light and shade animate the whole sequence, from the Dante / Pound epigraph, through the hillside forest where 'moss in tangled light / flickers / in dark regions of the mind', to embers from the past, or the shining tower, facing the darkness of time ('Coda'). The metaphor evokes a golden summer followed by grief, earthly joy endangered by oblivion. Yet here are the moments of splendour, preserved in a clear light: the tulip tree, the oak, guardians of loving encounters, exchanges of gifts. Poetry keeps the joys alive. At the same time, it seems, it reawakens the pain of those joys lost. A deep melancholy pervades these pieces, the sense of a lost or floating world, emphasized in conscious reminiscences of Japan, of courtliness and restraint, a ...


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