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This review is taken from PN Review 183, Volume 35 Number 1, September - October 2008.

'A LEVEL MIND IN CROOKED TIMES' LOUIS MACNEICE, Selected Poems, edited by Michael Longley (Faber & Faber) £12.99
LOUIS MACNEICE,The Strings Are False - an unfinished autobiography, with a new preface by Derek Mahon (Faber & Faber) £9.99
LOUIS MACNEICE, I Crossed the Minch, with an introduction by Tom Herron (Polygon) £9.99

Michael Longley has had two cracks at selecting MacNeice in Faber's poets' poets series: the first in 1998 was reduced to fit a smaller format in 2001. Apparently sales of MacNeice's Selected in that year had dropped to around 900 from 1,200 five years earlier; presumably the reformat was aimed at arresting this decline, although the poet who told me this added, 'if I was selling 900 a year I'd be a happy man'. In 2007, the selection was restored to the original, excellent size, regaining nearly forty poems plus selections from Autumn Journal, Ten Burnt Offerings and Autumn Sequel, i.e. fifty pages of poetry. This edition retained Longley's longer introduction and lost the more conversational one from 2001, which described the visit Longley, Derek Mahon and Seamus Heaney made to MacNeice's grave about a year after his death.

We dawdled between the graves, then signed the visitors' book, each contemplating an elegy. MacNeice's premature death at the age of fifty-five had shocked us. We felt bereaved of a father-figure whom we had only recently been getting to know. (Mahon was the only one of us who had met him personally.) The return of his ashes to Ireland did feel like some kind of repatriation. When the three of us were next together Mahon took from his pocket 'In Carrowdore Churchyard' and read it aloud. Heaney started to recite his poem, then crumpled it up. I wisely decided ...


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