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This review is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

DIVING AND CELEBRANT TONY CONRAN, Castles - Variations on an Original Theme (Gomer) £5.00

When the artist Brenda Chamberlain took her own life in 1971, Tony Conran felt compelled to take issue with her:
 

Brenda, this death of yours,
This acquiescence in the laws of the
  market
- How could you do it?

       … how is it you never saw
That art's no art but as people take it
- This boy, that woman, this old man -
Take it because because it's given them,
Because it's useful to them,
Because it's good manners and a gift?


It is as good a definition as any of his own poetry, which springs from a fusion of two Welsh traditions, the cywydd gofyn or gift poem, and the cywydd llatai or message poem. In Conran's view, the poet is not there to market 'the commodity of oneself,/Oneself the exploitable ore'. His gift places him at the service of the community. Diviner and celebrant, he must find the words to frame their rites of passage. A substantial proportion of Conran's poems, among them some of his finest, have been written for births, weddings and funerals, or to be given to other poets on the occasion of their meeting.

Clearly this places him at odds with the English tradition, where such poetry is described as occasional. Conran sees it as poetry's proper occasion, a re-affirmation of the shared values that bind a community together. Such re-affirmations ...


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