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This review is taken from PN Review 162, Volume 31 Number 4, March - April 2005.

THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS New British Poetry, edited by Don Paterson and Charles Simic (Graywolf Press) $16.00

What do two peoples divided by a common language make of the divergent roads the language has taken at the start of the twenty-first century? New British Poetry offers American readers a snap-shot of where we're at, as our Yankee cousins might put it.

Don Paterson and Charles Simic in their various introductions say more about 'the state of the art' via their prose styles than perhaps they do through the actual contents of their essays. Where Simic is all open, declarative sentences, the syntax of a citizen imbued with imperial confidence, Paterson's tortuous grammar provides a clue not just to his position vis à vis his American readers - what used to be called 'cultural cringe' - but to those other English speaking peoples who no longer run the world.

Here is Simic:

The rediscovery of British poetry on this continent in the last few years has a lot to do with the popularity of Irish poetry. Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, John Montague, Derek Mahon, and several others had books published in this country and made themselves even more familiar to readers by giving numerous readings.

Simic feels free to be slapdash - Heaney definitely does not want to be considered a 'British' poet, as any reader of his Field Day pamphlet, 'Open Letter', would know, and the casual conflation of 'Irish' and 'British' is a piece of yoking many more of his countrymen would take exception ...


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