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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 5 Number 5, 1975.

The Poetry of Elizabeth Jennings Edward Levy


'GAINED', the short, serene, affirmative final poem in Elizabeth Jennings's most recent collection (Growing-Points [1975]) is very similar in character to the poems that come respectively at the ends of her 1967 Collected Poems and of the small collection Lucidities published in 1970 - the former entitled 'Gale', the latter 'Journey through Warwickshire to Oxford'. If we run them chronologically, the poems are respectively seascape, landscape and skyscape. What seems to me significant is that in each case a simple affirmative statement is set against a background of the natural world in a state of balanced serenity, of still resolution. In all three contexts, that is, at all three of these stages of Elizabeth Jennings's career, these poems do not seem out of place as concluding pieces: a synthesis of the poems in any of her collections would be an affirmative rather than a negative spirit. And yet 'Gale', which follows hard on The Mind has Mountains, her collection of work based on asylum experiences, and the 'Journey through Warwickshire', which concludes a comparatively weak collection in which self-professed doubt and anxiety are the key-notes, might seem, if not entirely acts of faith', at any rate professions of faith in the teeth of . . . This applies whether or not the arrangement of poems is the act of publisher or author. But in the case of Growing-Points the affirmation of the last poem seems more than this. For the new strength of this collection, a strength displayed ...


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