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This review is taken from PN Review 121, Volume 24 Number 5, May - June 1998.

SOME WONDERS Gay Love Poetry, edited by Neil Powell (Robinson) £6.99

Reviewing Stephen Coote's The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse in 1983, Alan Hollinghurst grudgingly began, 'It could be a good idea to have an anthology of poems by and about homosexuals: it could bring together interesting curiosities and trace relationships between literary and social practice over a large time-span. It could also contain some wonderful poems' (TLS, 22 April 1983). In these terms, Neil Powell's collection does indeed seem to have sprung from a good idea, and does indeed contain some wonders.

Coote was attacked in this country for including poems in his anthology as much for thematic as for aesthetic reasons. Bad poems had been granted access. (And 'bad poems', as often as not, meant American free verse. The last item in the book, Michael Rumaker's 'The Fairies Are Dancing All Over the World', came in for some especially crude ridicule, at once homophobic and anti-American.) Yet anyone but a cretin could see that The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse - like, say, The Chatto Book of Ghosts or The Faber Book of Seductions - was likely to be, indeed would have to be, constructed around thematic choices. That is precisely what most anthologies exist to do. As it has dated, and the later poems have dated with it, the Coote book increasingly looks like a dignified reflection of its own moment in gay cultural history - which is precisely what it should have been.

The gay poetry anthology is not a new phenomenon. ...


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