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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 2 Number 2, 1974.

The Poetry Of Brian Jones Michael Cayley



IN MANY WAYS Brian Jones resembles Larkin. Both are preoccupied with middle-class society, both use language that is on the whole simple and colloquial, both resort to personae, both take subjects from their immediate, unspectacular environment. But Jones does not share the air of detachment of much of Larkin's work. When he does adopt a detached manner, as in 'Monkey House', the results tend to be disappointing. One can admire the local details, the energy which almost carries the poem through, but the overall effect is too easy. Thus Jones enacts accurately the movements of the gibbons who

swoop through their scallop rhythms
on pipecleaner arms


but the comparison between man and primate which underlies the poem is too obvious. When at the end the frenzied gibberish of a monkey makes the human spectators recoil and mock, 'remote in lonely customs', the implication that men are no better, that men too cannot communicate, seems to be artificially grafted on to the poem. It is as if two poems - a mimetic description where Jones enters into the movements of the animals, and a wry moralising - have been joined together without any attempt at an invisible seam.

Such a poem, it is only fair to say at once, is uncharacteristic of Jones' work. On the whole he avoids the intellectual posturing by which some Movement poems express a complex of viewpoints, and his speakers are not detached observers but involved ...


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