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This item is taken from PN Review 153, Volume 30 Number 1, September - October 2003.

Letters from Stephen Alexander Hall and Ian Shelton
Essential Batness


I would hope that I am not alone in finding N.S. Thompson's remarks about the poetry of D.H. Lawrence (PNR 152) both vulgar and banal, failing as they do to critically appreciate the subtle language game that the latter is playing within his magnificent text Birds, Beasts and Flowers.

Fortunately, Lawrence has far more intelligent readers who understand the poems `Bare Almond-Trees' and `Man and Bat' to be much more than `tourist snapshots' of `easily apprehended' trees and animals in `exotic climates' (p. 69).

One such is Amit Chaudhuri, who persuasively shows in his D.H. Lawrence and `Difference' (Oxford University Press, 2003) how in the first of these verses Lawrence develops Ruskin's thinking on the nature of the Gothic, particularly the fifth element of rigidity, constructing powerfully original metaphors in which natural objects such as almond trees are viewed as Gothic ornament, thereby dissolving the untenable metaphysical distinction between nature and culture and creating a radical new poetic landscape.

In the second verse, `Man and Bat', which, according to Thompson, does nothing more than amuse primary school children, Chaudhuri perceives a protoDerridean play of différance and demonstrates how Lawrence is not, as Thompson argues, trying to give an `exact rendering of what a bat is like' (p. 69), but, rather, constructing a dummy creature with a mask face which parodies and subverts the very notion of an essential batness.

It is not Lawrence's attempt to construct a new type of poetry which is `slack' and reliant upon `crude rhetorical devices' (p. 68), nor is it Lawrence's work which terminates ultimately in ennui, as Thompson claims; rather, it is old-fashioned and unimaginative criticism such as his own.



A Costard Pie


Commenting on Djuna Barnes' phrase `cuttle and costard on a plate', Rebecca Loncraine (PNR 152) writes: `The hard chalkiness of a cuttlefish contrasts with the liquid creaminess of custard.' But `cuttle' is a knife and `costard' an apple: far from being at all surreal, the image is a perfectly conventional still life.



This item is taken from PN Review 153, Volume 30 Number 1, September - October 2003.

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