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

TALL STORIES The Penguin Book of American Verse, revised edition, edited by Geoffrey Moore, £4.95
The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, £8.95
The Courtly Love Tradition, edited by Bernard O'Donoghue, (Manchester University Press) £4.95

Geoffrey Moore's revision of his Penguin Book of American Verse is an infuriating book, partly because it is difficult to dislike it as wholeheartedly as its prejudices warrant. The difficulty lies in the fact that when Mr Moore is selecting from poets everyone acknowledges as significant he more or less repeats everyone else's choices, and so if a newcomer to American poetry wants to read the standard poets he will find them represented here by the standard poems - Whitman's 'Song of Myself', Stevens's 'Sunday Morning', Lowell's 'Quaker Graveyard', the usual bits of Pound, the usual lyrics by Emily Dickinson and Frost, and yes, our old friend the red wheelbarrow. So far so good, if also so un-adventurous. It is when we come to the second division that the trouble starts.

E. E. Cummings gets twelve poems (and some reverent remarks about his 'typographical experiments' in the introduction) to - for example - Allen Tate's one. Allen Ginsberg gets seventeen pages to - for example - Elizabeth Bishop's (very atypical) five. Then there are quite a few poets represented by one poem apiece, and if we except those by the most recent writers, their authors seem to be in only because Mr Moore didn't have the nerve to leave them out altogether; but he clearly doesn't like them and usually indicates as much by choosing atypical poems that do little to whet one's appetite for more: poets in this category include Nemerov, Hecht, Merrill and Merwin. He ...


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