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

THE CREATURE'S LOVE OF CREATION TOM SCOTT. The Collected Shorter Poems of Tom Scott, with an introduction by Sorley MacLean (Agenda/Chapman Publications) £11·95

'Collected' but not 'complete', since there are one or two poems, the attractive 'Adam', for example, not included, and a few of Scott's translations have not been included either, though the best-known are here, in what amounts to a most impressive body of work, and one that deserves to be widely read.

It is also a deeply unfashionable book, which is all to the good: we need people and poems that don't fit in. It is unfashionable because it is about things, it is not a mere style, as so much twentieth century poetry has become, largely because of the by now tacit (and therefore more powerful in its hold on our minds) assumption that poetry should be 'pure'. The idea was perhaps proposed in its most extreme form by the aesthete Roger Fry, who conceived of a poetry that was 'gibberish-a collection of sounds so far as possible without meaning', and even imagined, according to Clive Bell, a series of sounds that would resemble Milton's 'Ode to the Nativity' and that would possess 'all, or almost all, the merits of the original' but be happily without all its distracting references and connotations. Put so baldly, the notion is obviously foolish, but, beneath a variety of heads of hair, some of them punkishly post-modern, it in fact underlies a great deal of contemporary work, of which it might be said, to adapt Levi-Strauss on non-representational painting in La Pensé Sauvage, 'C'est une école poésie académique, o chaque ...


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