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This review is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

ANGLO-SAXON EXISTENTIALISM Kevin Crossley-Holland, New and Selected Poems 1965-1990 (Hutchinson) £8.99

Kevin Crossley-Holland is a poet who strikingly satisfies Pound's dictum that a poet who sees only in a particular part of the spectrum can still offer great rewards if he sees all the more sharply there.

The poems in this 180-page selection return again and again to coastal landscapes and to intimations of what it means to be a bare, forked animal exposed to the elements:

No return, there is no
way to return
except the way of the exile
to an area of absence.


This poem is titled 'Outsider' (originally in Waterslain, 1986). The title and the word 'exile' point us to Camus. The cadence of the opening vords reminds us of Hopkins: 'No worst, there is none'. The tenor of the statement surely returns to the Anglo-Saxon world of wanderers and seafarers so beloved of Crossley-Holland, one of our finest translators of Old English writings. With all of these presences ghosting the opening words, can we still talk of a Crossley-Holland voice? This is the second half of the twenty-six-line poem:

He supposes he still loves the place,
not for better for worse,
only for echoes booming
within him as the rare bittern booms
on a deserted shore:

stumps of crab apple and quince,
the green shine on the jetty's rotting stanchions,
and Sanskrit in the mud, and still
that same tang of iodine when ...


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