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This review is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

DARKNESS VISIBLE Mind and Blood: The Collected Poems of John Finly, edited by David Middleton (John Daniel & Co., P.O. Box 21922, Santa Barbara, CA 93121, USA) $15.00
JOHN FINLAY, A Prayer to the Father: Poetry and Prose, selected & edited by David Middleton (Blue Heron Press, P.O. Box 550, Thibodaux, LA 70302, USA) np

The biographical facts are inescapable. John Finlay died of Aids in 1991 at the age of fifty. Born and bred in the Deep South, he taught for a while at Louisiana State University, but his last ten years were spent living and working on the family farm in Alabama. This was, from a literary point of view, his most productive period, though it was passed (by all accounts) mainly in solitude. During his lifetime, he published three slight chapbooks of verse as well as several densely argued and deeply researched essays on literature and the modern mind. On his death, his executor and fellow-poet David Middleton selected a fourth chapbook from the posthumous papers; entitled A Prayer to the Father, it includes extracts from his diaries as well as poems. Middleton has now produced an exemplary edition of the collected poems, which comprises all four chapbooks and an impressive section of uncollected pieces, mostly brief narratives written during the poet's last two years. The title, Mind and Blood, chosen by Finlay as he neared death, is a useful signpost to the book's thematic core.

I followed Finlay's sparse publications with an enthusiasm frustrated by their infrequency: I did so because they exemplified several virtues I valued and wanted for modern poetry: the intelligence, the chastity of style, the struggle against relativism, the grandeur of theme and rhetoric. It was not until this book's appearance, however, that I realized how substantial a poet Finlay was. It is often ...


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