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This review is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH Richard Hugo, Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo (W.W. Norton) £7.95 pb
Jean Garrigue, Selected Poems (University of Illinois Press) $27.50, $12.95 pb

Richard Hugo died, aged 59, in 1982; Jean Garrigue, aged 60, in 1972. They both produced a substantial corpus of work; both were appreciated in their day though neither had - nor, in all honesty could be expected to have had - major success. Yet they were serious, committed, profoundly American artists, who through their intelligence and life-long application produced work that is deserving of correspondingly serious attention. Their dates are not far apart and collections of their work have now appeared, ready for posthumous evaluation. In themselves these would be arbitrary connections but intriguingly, like their greater forbears Whitman and Dickinson (or Williams and Stevens), they turn out to be opposites whose careers balance, complement and illuminate each other.

'So long, and thanks for all the fish', say the dolphins in the final volume of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a sentiment that could be endorsed as you reach the end of Hugo's collected poems. There are rivers and lakes and seas full of them and indeed the title poem of the whole collection, standing in valedictory position, has the commemoration of a drunken fisherman as its theme, and also, by a sleight of metafiction, constitutes that commemoration in itself. The memorial stone, we are told, will cause rumours, and these in turn will bring about the revival of a decaying community, a task that the post-as-drunken-fisherman obviously sees as a central item on his agenda.

Poetically speaking fish have a handy amphibiousness, ...


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