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This review is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

REVIEWS
TIME'S STRANGE EXCUSE
Richard Hoffpauir, The Art of Restraint: English Poetry from Hardy to Larkin (University of Delaware Press) £32.50
Anne Ridler, A Measure of English Poetry (Perpetua Press) £4.95
Gerald Dawe, How's the Poetry Going? (Lagan Press) £4.95

Richard Hoffpauir sees his task as 'sorting out' modern English poetry, and his Introduction promises both clarity of intention and an attractively laconic line in wit. He rightly asserts that early modernist critics 'made a mistake … in associating accentual-syllabic metre, which is the traditional means in English of condensing poetic thought, with the discredited former century', and this might have provided him with an excellent springboard for his examination of 'English poetry from Hardy to Larkin'; a little later he writes, with splendid polemical assurance, 'The quieter poets of this century who have worked in traditional forms, who have accepted and studied received poetic disciplines, are the true radicals, for they have had the confidence and power not to capitulate to contemporary reality.' Furthermore, a critic who wonders (of 'The Waste Land') 'Is there really a need for the thunder to speak Sanskrit instead of English?' looks set to be refreshingly unstuffy. But judge not a man by his prefaces. Perhaps Hoffpauir (as is not at all unusual) wrote his Introduction in a spirit of relaxed hindsight as he turned earlier academic articles into a book. Whatever the reason, his text is made of different stuff altogether.

The Art of Restraint sounds like a book about bondage, and so in a sense it is, for its author is enslaved by angry dogmatism. It begins, treading in the footsteps (or on the feet) of Donald Davie, with a chapter called 'Yeats or Hardy?' - a question which ...


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