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This review is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

GREGORY AND LILIES Roger Finch, According to Lilies (Carcanet) £6.95
Gregory Woods, We Have the Melon (Carcanet) £6.95

Gregory Woods's book appears with recommendations from Thom Gunn and Stephen Spender. The former begins: 'At last, a book of good poetry which takes as its subject a frank and unsentimental homosexuality.' The latter finds that Woods's poems 'have an outspoken sensuality which, combined with strictness, reminds me of Latin poetry of the late period'. Both statements are con-testable. Gunn's sigh of relief ignores several poets who have. written good poems on homosexuality. (And his own The Man with Night Sweats.) Spender's comparison of Woods with late Latin poets is both misleading and inaccurate, and seems to have been a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of fleeting mentions of Catullus. The names of Juvenal and Martial do not spring to mind when reading Woods, though there is now and then a touch of Petronius Arbiter. However, he lacks the biting incisive-ness and frank indecency of the poets. Instead, there is frequent use of the ugly little word 'cock' which gets in the gullet (I prefer the richer resonance of 'cunt') and 'arse' which evokes a sloppy, suffocating British bottom - how much better the American 'ass'. But it is 'cock' that sticks out like a sore thumb in many of. these generally sexually discreet poems. It is their very discretion that makes certain words appear shocking in their familiarity. 'Phallus' and 'prick' are used only once, while 'arse' has the singular variant 'toosh' which I take to be the affectionate Yiddish term 'tush' (from 'tokus', as in 'tokus licker' ...


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