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This review is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.

ALL THAT SHIMMERS AMY CLAMPITT , The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (Alfred A. Knopf) $30

For readers unfamiliar with her style, the American poet Amy Clampitt might seem fussy and quaint. Indeed, her verse possesses an archaic quality, with her primary influences - Wordsworth, Keats, Hopkins, and Dickinson, Moore, Bishop, and Henry James - less subdued than deferred to. But if we look beyond Clampitt's poetic allegiances to the work itself, we find, in her best poems, a unique vision: with her pioneering restlessness, Quaker sensibility, naturalist's eye, and ornate style, Clampitt succeeded in fashioning an oddly powerful, singular body of work by the time of her death in 1994. This achievement runs through the 430 pages of poetry in the posthumous volume The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt.

Clampitt's publishing record has become somewhat legendary in American letters. As the poet Mary Jo Salter relates in her affectionate and informative foreword to The Collected Poems, Clampitt published her first book (The Kingfisher, 1983) at 63, after working for many years as a librarian for the Audubon Society. In the last eleven years of her life (she died of ovarian cancer at 73 and married, for the first time, three months before her death), she published five substantial books of poetry, each between 96 and 149 pages long. Clampitt was a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and her books received accolades from weighty critics as well as adulation from younger poets. Her patience paid off, with her emergence as a fully formed poet. Whatever apprenticeship occurred, occurred in private.


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