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This article is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

Pleasures and Rigours: Douglas Dunn's Poetry John Ash
Some notes on the poetry of Douglas Dunn


I see a rose but am forbidden it.
I see a swan but must not mention it.



If 'the people' are dominated by the prevailing system of needs, then only the rupture with this system can make them an ally against barbarism. Prior to this rupture there is no 'place among the people' which the writer can simply take up. Writers must first create this place and this is a process which may require them to stand against the people, which may prevent them from speaking their language. In this sense 'elitism' today may well have a radical content. To work for the radicalisation of consciousness means to make explicit and conscious the material and ideological discrepancy between the writer and 'the people' rather than to obscure and camouflage it.
Herbert Marcuse: The Aesthetic Dimension


DOUGLAS DUNN'S poetry is at its best when most fictive and baroque, when, - 'A swarm of fissured angels sweep over/ Unremarkable civilians,/Magnates of no inheritance'; when objects are described with such a strange vividness that his style approaches 'Magic Realism': hair brushes become pet animals, open books fall asleep, lamp-posts are like the ghosts of Baudelaire and Kafka, and unlucky mariners 'sit like unstrung banjos'. This Dunn makes Messrs. Raine and Reid look like mere beginners in the art of metamorphosis.

It follows that Love Or Nothing is his ...
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