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This review is taken from PN Review 4, Volume 4 Number 4, July - September 1978.

RECENT NORTH AMERICAN POETRY Turns by John Matthias, Anvil Press, £2.25.
Turns, and other poems by Richard Outram, Chatto & Windus, £1.75.
Parade of Ghosts by Roger Hecht, The Lightning Tree, Jene Lyon, Santa Fe.
First Poems by Sam Larcombe, The Lightning Tree.
The Society of Anna by Lucile Adler, The Lightning Tree.
The House on Marshland by Louise Gluck, Anvil Press, £1.75.

John Matthias is an American poet now living in England: the poems in Turns, his second collection, have appeared in periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Anvil Press should be congratulated on publishing a difficult, uneven, stimulating book that far more than most rewards attention. Matthias can be cryptic, mannered, sometimes exasperating, footling or just flat, occasionally incomprehensible; but if he is prone to abuse his talent, the talent itself is finally an impressive one.

It is not his ostensible themes that present difficulty. Ranging from friends and family, through American politics, and attempts to relate himself to an English cultural heritage, to a searching engagement with abstruse questions of aesthetics, metaphysics, historical consciousness, Matthias's subject-matter shows an admirably enterprising range and seriousness. One problem for the reader is, however, that it is when he is at his most accessible that Matthias tends to be wooden and perfunctory: in his 'protest' poems, or some rather rambling epistles to friends:


                     . . . In London monographs on
Mahler are delivered in the morning post intended
 for the eyes of diplomats on holiday in
Devon-the still & deadly music of the I.R.A. One
 by one these books explode ... In the hands
of an unlucky clerk, the lap of an astonished secretary
 dreaming of her lover.
('For John, After His Visit:Suffolk, Fall')


Not that Matthias can't be deft and pointed. 'A ...


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