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This article is taken from PN Review 88, Volume 19 Number 2, November - December 1992.

Hope and Distrust Andrew Crozier

'It will have happened to that other / The survivor
'(George Oppen, 'The Occurrences')


'The harm that history does us / Is grievous but not final.
' (Donald Davie, 'Wild Boar Clough')


IF WHAT MAKES A POEM memorable includes the memory of its first reading then I can think of a number of poems by Donald Davie that belong to that category: 'Homage to John L. Stephens', for example, in Events and Wisdoms; or 'Emigrant, to the Receding Shore', in Robin Skelton's Memorial Symposium for Herbert Read; or 'Wild Boar Clough', in Three for Water Music. More recently, in 1985, there was 'Recollections of George Oppen in a Letter to a Friend', in the London Review of Books, but this poem is memorable for the shock with which it left me speechless, 'and with a sort of fury', as I re-read these lines, and then read to the end of the poem, in a spirit of offended repudiation.
 
Poetic Justice
I swear made her appearance in a toga.
Alzheimer's, yes - the diagnosis was
all very well, but surely George's dealings
with language had for years anticipated,
almost provoked, the visitation? Such
pains as he had been at - in verse, in prose,
in conversation - to subvert, discount,
derange articulation. Destiny
strikes, and for months before he dies
he's inarticulate. A hideous justice.


If ...


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