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

An Equable Light T.J.G. Harris

THE TEST OF A POEM, I more and more think, is the extent to which it lodges in the memory, not necessarily in word-perfect form, but as a kind of presence whose sweetness one recalls at times throughout one's life. The test of a poet, it follows, is the extent to which his works lodge in the memory - or, to call on Pound, carve a 'trace in the mind'. There are poems and poets that at first excite one, perhaps overwhelmingly, but prove to have no staying power, others that seem at first not to say much, but grow gradually upon the mind. If I think of Donald Davie's work, it is the following poems that come, naturally and unbidden, to mind: 'The Garden Party', 'Time Passing, Beloved', 'The Mushroom Gatherers', 'Limited Achievement', 'A Winter Talent', 'Heigh-Ho on a Winter Afternoon', 'Aubade', 'Against Confidences', 'Two Dedications', 'Resolutions', 'Housekeeping', 'Low Lands', 'House-martin', 'New York in August', 'Barnsley and District', 'Autumn Imagined', 'Vying', 'Ezra Pound in Pisa', 'Tunstall Forest', 'A Winter Landscape near Ely', 'A Death in the West', 'Barnsley, 1966', '"Abbeyforde"', 'Cheshire', 'Cumberland', 'Derbyshire', 'Middlesex', 'Father, the Cavalier', 'Death of a Painter', 'Portland', 'Ars Poetica', 'An Apparition', 'Widowers', 'The Stopping Train', 'Screech-owl', 'Some Future Moon', 'No Epitaph', 'Having No Ear', parts of 'A Garland for Ronsard', 'The Thirty-ninth Psalm, Adapted' and certain other of the poems in To Scorch or Freeze, particularly the terrifying 'Cannibals', as well as 'Levity', 'Inditing A Good Matter' and 'David Dancing'; from the recent ...


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