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This review is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

WIZARDS OF OZ The Faber Book of Modern Australian Verse, edited by Vincent Buckley (Faber) £14.99
The Bright Field: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from Wales, edited by Meic Stephens (Carcanet) £9.95
In the Face of Eternity: Eight Gaelic Poets, edited by Christopher Whyte (Polygon) £9.95
Antaeus: Jubilee Edition, edited by Daniel Halpern (Harvill) £8.95
The Jacaranda Review, Volume 5:1, Guest Editor: Ian Gregson (University of California) $11.95

Oz is in. It's happened before, of course, though in a subtly different way: in the late sixties, when Germaine Greer, Clive James and Richard Neville made their takeover bid for British cultural life. Now, though, the traffic's in the other direction: even (and what higher accolade can there be?) Keith Floyd has made a TV cookery series there. A nation that eats well writes well? The Faber Book of Modern Australian Verse may provide some answers.

First, though, it provides some questions. What exactly is 'Modern Australian Verse'? For the purposes of this anthology, it's in English (and not as a translation into English), 20th century (but not later than 1980) and never more than four pages long. Apart from fulfilling the various conditions of admission, is this poetry recognizably Australian in other respects? In a somewhat contorted introduction, Vincent Buckley argues that it is, though much of its distinctiveness is defined either in negatives - ways in which it is unlike European modernism or the fifties Movement in England - or in terms which could themselves do with definition ('When the balladic lyric failed and slackened, it was replaced by one of its own components, the moody lyric . '). Well-meaning and well-informed, Buckley's introduction is ultimately confounding, like too many signs on a roundabout.

His anthology starts shakily with John Shaw Neilson, which is rather like opening a book of modern English poetry with Henry Newbolt, but seems set to improve with ...


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