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

Comment Helen Vendler

DONALD DAVIE'S self-scourging poetry slakes one's thirst for the uncompromising, the exigent, and the perpendicular. Like every strong poet, he quarrels with both his predecessors and his contemporaries, correcting Yeats on Ireland and Pound on ethics, fashioning a more angular metric than Auden's, a more astringent music than Heaney's. Yet his real quarrels are with himself, and out of those, by the Yeatsian rule, he has made poetry. His work, in poetry and criticism, is constantly recognizable as by himself and no one else. In his criticism, he has drawn a map of modernism, starting with Hardy and Pound, that remains one of the definitive outlines of twentieth-century experiment in form and language. The mapmaker, in this case, is a notable locus on the map.


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