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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry, edited by Douglas Dunn (Faber) £17.50
Love from Wales, edited by Tony Curtis and Sian James (Seren) £6.95
Dedalus Irish Poets (Dedalus) £7.95
Stonechat: Ten Devon Poets, edited by Christopher Southgate (Taxus) £6.95
The Forward Book of Poetry 1993 (Forward Publishing) £5.95
Apples and Snakes, edited by Paul Beasley (Apples & Snakes) £6.95
This Green Earth, edited by William Scammell (Ellenbank Press) £12.99

For months I've been living with The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry when I ought to have been reviewing it: unlike some anthologies, it's not to be dismissed with a cursory glance and a quick paragraph. Douglas Dunn's introductory essay, which might so easily have provided an occasion for blurry claims and vague generalities, is instead almost overstocked with particular insights. He rightly insists on the central importance of MacDiarmid, and. to his credit is neither intimidated nor antagonized by him, but he also gives careful consideration to the more easily-overlooked Edwin Muir; there are valuable considerations of writers such as Sorley MacLean, Norman MacCaig, W.S. Graham, George Mackay Brown and lain Crichton Smith. Dunn's constant refusal to be bamboozled by what he calls 'whisky-o-Iated jauntiness' provides a bracing candour: for instance, he frankly admits that Graham's 'relative neglect' in Scotland is largely due to the fact that 'he had the cheek to live somewhere else'. Dunn is equally contemptuous of old-fashioned sentimentality (' National caricatures were preferred to realities, truth and aspiration'), and of its descendant, nationalistic literary chumminess: 'Back-slapping and other exaggerated forms of courtesy can turn the critical process into little more than flag-waving'. Such wariness, rare and refreshing in a nation-based anthology, means that his own jubilantly flag-waving peroration - 'It has been a hectic century for Scottish poetry, one filled with thrilling turbulence …' - carries exceptional conviction.

Dunn's choice of poems illustrates his introductory points while tactfully imposing a degree ...

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