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This review is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

FEELING INTO FORM Tony Curtis, Letting Go (Poetry Wales Press) £3.50 pb.
Mary Johnson, Here on Earth (Taxus) £3.75 pb.
William Martin, Cracknrigg (Taxus) £4.50 pb.
George Szirtes, Short Wave (Secker & Warburg) £4.00
Charles Johnston, The Irish Lights (Bodley Head) £4.50
F. T. Prince, Later On (Anvil Press) £3.95 pb.
Peter Levi, The Echoing Green (Anvil Press) £1.95 pb.

It is arguable that 'letting go' is a comparatively recent literary figure, a product of a post-Freudian century and a product, moreover, that has been the subject of some of that century's more notable (although not necessary best) verse. Following this line of thought, one might wish to set up a distinction between 'organic' and 'abstract' form, as did Read in his 1938 Essays; in the formal sense, letting go is obviously a reflection found in the former category. Poets have explored the limits of language in 'free verse', just as they have explored the limits of personality. If organic forms are - as Read might conceivably have argued - responsive to the famous 'unified sensibility', then it is hardly surprising that the twentieth century should have grappled John Donne to its literary heart: the day's deep midnight is not a long way from the locked razor.

Yet on the obverse side of the coin, it could be argued that letting go is a consistent trope, a figure that permeates English verse from earliest to latest. Beowulf, after all, begins with a ship burial, 'and no one knows where that cargo may fall'. Equally, letting go was certainly a part of the fine frenzy of fin amour, it is misleading to expect Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love to be those arts taught in the finishing school of courtly passion, when their literary manifestations are often observed to be Madness, Fornication, Blood-letting, and Death. But ...


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