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This review is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

'ONCE ONLY, TILL THE END OF THE WORLD' CZESLAW MILOSZ, Provinces: Poems 1987-1991, translated by the author and Robert Hass (Carcanet) £6.95
PETER ROBINSON, Entertaining Fates (Carcanet) £6.95
STEPHEN ROMER, Plato's Ladder (Oxford University Press) £6.99
ANTHONY BARNETT, Little Stars and Straw Breasts; Michael Grant, ed., The Poetry of Anthony Barnett,
ANDREA ZANZOTTO Poems by Andrea Zanzotto, translated from the Italian by Anthony Barnett (Allardyce Book, in association with Grille and Prest Roots Press), sold only as a set of three, £30 until 1 September 1993, thereafter £45

'Poetry is necessary only where the poet participates in man's struggle with the meaning of the verb to be (and this will never stop as long as man lives on earth)…'

'Poetry that shies away from participating in man's fundamental efort at unification changes into entertainment and dies.'


I opened at random Czeslaw Miloszs most recent book of essays, Beginning With My Streets (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and found these two sentences towards the end of an essay on Robinson Jeffers. They give the temper of the man and his art, and suggest why he is so disliked by people who take a more indulgent view of the arts and of life (for the two cannot be separated): they feel judged, whether implicitlly or explicitly; and no doubt rightly.

The sentences also explain why Milosz has never been popular with the 'poetry as extremity' crowd, who have so warmed to what Milosz has called the nihilistic humanitarianism of Tadeusz Rozewicz, whose 'tragedy is to deny the values which are affirmed by his revolt'; Milosz has never been forgiven for those words, partly because certain admirers of certain poets cannot brook any criticism of their idols (particularly if it is true), but more profoundly, I suspect, because they suggest that a genuine, if unsettled and unsettling, perspective on experience, even on extreme experience, is possible; and that such a perspective involves values that transcend what is thought to be 'raw' experience and give order ...


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