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Next Issue Michelle Holmes on ‘Whitman, Alabama’ Les Murray Eight Poems Gabriel Josipovici Who Dares Wins: Reflections on Translation Maureen N. McLane Four Poems James Womack Europe (after the German of Marie Luise Kaschnitz)

This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

ALL OVER EUROPE Douglas Dunn, Europa's Lover, £1.25
Ken Smith, Abel Baker Charlie Delta Epic Sonnets, £1.00
Carol Rumens, Scenes from the Gingerbread House, £1.00
The Virgin and the Nightingale, Medieval Latin Poems translated by Fleur Adcock, £6.95, £3.95 pb.
Tony Harrison, U. S. Martial, £1.00
All published by Bloodaxe Books, PO Box ISN, Newcastle upon Tyne NE99 ISN

Douglas Dunn appears to be increasingly attracted to what is at present a rather unfashionable idea of the poem - as a long, inclusive compendium, an overview that sums up and contains multitudes. Not that you feel Whitman, or even Pound, means much to him; he seems to draw his strength from older sources - the eighteenth century meditative/narrative tradition (Cowper, Crabbe) perhaps, or, to go further back, the fables of the Scottish Chaucerians. Not for him the brief vignette that is beautifully crafted and self-sufficient; in the argument between Sibelius and Mahler on the nature of the symphony you guess he would side with the latter ('a symphony must contain the world'). Even in his earliest book, Terry Street, the title poems can be considered as one poem, a sequence that has inclusiveness rather than precision of focus as its aim. The impulse is generous and democratic; the reader senses that the poet would find neatness too close to smugness, final accuracy too like dismissive contempt.

In Europa's Lover, a sequence of fourteen poems, he has addressed himself to his biggest subject so far-the reality (and the dream) that is Europe, no less. But for all his need to write discursively it seems to me that the brief vignette is exactly what Dunn is best at; the single most successful poem in the sequence is number IX, a short lyric of three stanzas, in which each stanza is used to describe one moment in the history ...


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