PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 141, Volume 28 Number 1, September - October 2001.

RE-RIGHTING HISTORY Anthology of Twentieth-Century British & Irish Poetry, edited by Keith Tuma (Oxford University Press), $42.50

Anthologies are an established feature of the landscape of contemporary poetry and yet it has become increasingly difficult to answer the question 'Whom do they serve?'' or, indeed, to discern whether they serve any useful purpose at all. This is because anthologies are usually masquerades in which partiality is presented as comprehensiveness, individual taste or prejudice as historical objectivity and close personal friends as the future hopes of poetry. The result is a kind of literary history as the sustained reverberations of distortion effects.

It is against this background noise that Keith Tuma has almost achieved the impossible. His Anthology of Twentieth-Century British & Irish Poetry is full of surprising discoveries and judicious selections from names who naturally demand inclusion. The book is genuinely pluralist and is, therefore, the first of its kind since Edward Lucie-Smith's 1970 anthology British Poetry since 1945. This alone makes it both important and remarkable. The fact that Tuma is an American critic has perhaps allowed him a greater degree of detachment from British and Irish poetry's tribes and isolations than a native could manage. For example, mention Edith Sitwell - one of Tuma's more unusual rehabilitations - and sooner or later someone will pop up with Leavis's dusty estimate about her belonging to the history of publicity. Tuma in contrast is interested in reading the poetry as poetry. The result is 941 pages and 126 poets beginning with Hardy, Hopkins, Kipling and Yeats and ending with Caroline Bergvall, Drew Milne, Catherine ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image