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

THE VILEST OF ROLLING PINS Sarah Maguire, Spilt Milk (Seeker & Warburg) £6
Gerald Woodward, Householder (Chatto & Windus) £5.99
Hugo Williams, Self-Portrait With a Slide (OUP) £5.95
D.J. Enright, Under The Circumstances (OUP) £5.99
Vernon Scannell, A Time For Fires (Robson Books) £10.95
Canu Maswedd yr Oesoedd Canol:
Medieval Welsh Erotic Poetry, edited, with English translations and an introduction, by Dafydd Johnston (TAFOL, Cardiff) £11.50

Sarah Maguire's is a promising first collection and well worth reading; so that I hope it will not seem unjust if I concentrate on what worries me about the collection. Though the construction of the poems is certainly, as Bernard O'Donoghue has remarked, skilful, they work mainly through the assembling of a number of disparate particulars. In the first poem, for example, 'May Day, 1986', which is 'for Tadeusz Slawek', the particulars include the temperature in Warsaw and in London ('Sunny, 18°/ (Sixty-four Fahrenheit)), sitting in a garden at sunset reading Mansfield Park and drinking gin and tonic, thinking of the wind carrying fall-out from Chernobyl to Poland, of cancer, of 'your letters in my drawer', of Socrates' mistrust of writing, coming inside to write a letter to 'you', and a final, studiedly proleptic, image, from the subsequently to be seen news, of contaminated Polish milk being poured away and a crying Polish boy. There is nothing necessarily wrong with such a method, and in the better poems it works reasonably well, but it does often seem too much of a method, and I cannot help recalling the charge that the unjustly neglected German composer Hans Pfitzner threw (unjustly, where Schönberg himself and Alban Berg were concerned) at the atonal school: he said that they had replaced Einfall, the nearest translation of which, according to Hans Keller, is 'a sudden idea' or 'a spontaneous notion', with constructivism, with method. As a result, one has the impression of the weaker ...


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