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This review is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

THE CONSEQUENT SIZE OF THE CHECK Dear Editor: A History of Poetry in Letters - The First Fifty Years 1912-1962, compiled and edited by Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young (W.W. Norton) $39.95

Most British readers probably think of it as Poetry (Chicago), rather than plain Poetry, a title which extends the claim to comprehensiveness as far as the edges of the known world. We think of it as an American institution, but one which despite the occasional British number has had little influence in Britain. Basil Bunting's Briggflats first appeared there, so did Edward Thomas's `Old Man' and, most famous of all, if less British, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, not to mention the first three Cantos and Wallace Stevens's `Sunday Morning'. None of this has made Poetry compulsory reading for the British public, though it ought to have. Now the current editors of the journal have given us the chance to catch up on much of what Poetry has achieved by producing a history of its first fifty years - from 1912 to 1962 - based on the letters from poets to the editors. It makes fascinating reading.

In fact, this is an important book, if for no other reason than that, by printing so many of their letters, it gives us the most penetrating insight so far into the relations between the founding editor, Harriet Monroe, and her difficult `foreign correspondent', Ezra Pound. Pound only held the job from November 1912 to April 1919, but in that time Poetry became the leading proponent of modernism in the English language. It was largely thanks to him that the journal published poets like William Carlos Williams, Robert ...


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