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This review is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

GREEN AND BURNING ROBERT NYE, The Rain and the Glass: 99 Poems, New and Selected (Greenwich Exchange) £9.95

Robert Nye has been writing poems since at least 1952. That's fifty-three years: Keats could have lived and died twice in that time. But there are poets who start young, burn bright - and then continue burning. They stay alive. They do the business. They persist in being themselves, while literary movements rise and fall around them. Robert Nye is one such person.

The selection here comprises 99 poems, 39 of which post-date the Collected Poems published in 1995. The contents are presented in an order 'more or less the reverse of chronological'. The first poem, therefore, is fairly recent, while the last (but by no means the least) was written when Nye was thirteen years old. It is usually assumed that poetic juvenilia will be interesting, if a little unformed; that in a volume of this kind, the recent poems will be the most assured, leading back towards the flawed but promising early work. However, in The Rain and the Glass this is not true. Whether you start at the end and read forwards (as it were) or start at the beginning and read backwards in time, the poems cohere. The poet has come full circle.

'The rain and the glass' is a phrase from 'Listeners', the earliest poem in the volume. The author's preface describes its genesis: an afternoon sleep in which the thirteen-year-old boy 'dreamed a poem'. In his dream it was night and he had ...


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