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This review is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

SPEAKING OF RENEWAL Passionate Renewal: Jewish Poetry in Britain Since 1945 - An Anthology, edited by Peter Lawson (Five Leaves, in association with the European Jewish Publication Society) £14.99

Renewal after 1945, of course, and passionate, certainly; but recent Jewish writing can have little to do with modernism. No poem here slides down the page in short lines derived from Ezra Pound. European culture is invoked, but not as T.S. Eliot invoked it. Nevertheless, modernist poetry is present here as a reference point that is also a threat and a warning. Richard Burns alters the meaning of certain famous lines from The Waste Land when he writes: 'To Cape Town then I came./Dresden Nagasaki Sarajevo. Burning Burning Burning', ('The Manager, 31'). Eliot's fears for a civilisation that he valued soon modulated into a way of imposing his own authority as cultural mediator. Burns's lines move out of Europe to racist South Africa, and then turn to places that have actually burned, in each case avoidably.

The criticism is more direct in Emanuel Litvinoff's 'To T.S. Eliot', a poem that the author first read with Eliot in the audience. Dannie Abse, sitting in front of him, heard Eliot mutter 'It's a good poem; it's a very good poem' - the full story is given in Peter Lawson's informative introduction. For Litvinoff, Eliot lacked pity, but the point is made, and perhaps has to be made, in verse which alludes almost everywhere to the predecessor texts of the eminent modernist. These are pastiched and parodied, as if the book and the word must be acknowledged before even the worst experiences can be understood:

But London ...


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