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This review is taken from PN Review 108, Volume 22 Number 4, March - April 1996.

COOK'S TOUR STANLEY COOK, Woods Beyond a Cornfield: Collected Poems (Smith/Doorstop) £9.95

As an undergraduate I can remember reading Pope's Dunciad and thinking, 'Colley who? I later learnt that this was the then Laureate. It's the sort of experience that can trick one into taking a somewhat Darwinistic view of literature: Colley Cibber deservedly sank into obscurity and Pope's work got it's reward. Of course the idea that time simply sorts out the good from the bad is a dangerous one which can lead to sloppy reading and thinking. On the other hand, though, it is always tempting to treat with suspicion the praises sung for poets who never got too much attention during their lives. With such suspicion one reads the claim made by Peter Sansom on the back of Smith/Doorstop's Collected Poems of Stanley Cook: 'some of the most readable, intelligent and vividly achieved poems of our time'. Claims like this are frequently made for lesser-known poets and seem as frequently wrong. In this case the work lives up to its blurb.

On the surface, many of Cook's poems may seem shoddily put together. His frequent departures from his pentameter line give an initial impression of clumsiness, of a poet ill at ease with his chosen structures. Similarly, his rhymes are sometimes so slight as to be better described as quarter-rhymes or eighth-rhymes rather than half-rhyme? And occasionally he'll seem to forget a rhyme scheme altogether mid-poem:

Then no one needed him when tractors
And the empty smithy buried ...

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