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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

FASTIDIOUS LANDSCAPES Michael Alexander, Twelve Poems (Agenda Editions) 50p

In a note Michael Alexander dates his Twelve Poems to twenty ears ago; if this was done for defensive purposes the gesture is unnecessary-the poems are not vitiated by fashionable gestures which only the passing of time reveal as such. Thomas Hardy is a figure many young writers now feel some need to come to terms with, and it could be that we are given the dates partly to assure us that Mr Alexander was before the rush. Two of the twelve deal directly with Hardy and his presence is detectable in quite a few of the others. Alexander uses one of Hardy's commonest strategies, the paysage moralisé, in most of his poems and the observer's voice has the recognisably Hardyesque tone-questioning, brittle, a little cumbersome in the care with which anecdotal details are built up, an intense if barely stated poignancy in the 'moralisé' moments. (The end of the pamphlet's last poem, 'The Winter Sunlight', vividly-intentionally?-recalls 'During Wind and Rain'.) But I do not want to suggest that the poems are mere pastiche-Alexander has learned rather than copied; the sensibility that emerges values honesty to its own experience of the world, to those glimpsed moments of revelation or understanding his poems record. He is particularly good at making rhythm enact the mental process that is being described, as when he uses line ends to define more clearly a concept (of sunlight, 'It includes me/Temporarily'-by isolating 'temporarily' the line-end suggests not only the evanescence of the moment but of ...


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