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This review is taken from PN Review 127, Volume 25 Number 5, May - June 1999.

QUIET GATHERINGS DAVID SCOTT, Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) £8.95
JOHN TRANTER, Late Night Radio (Polygon)
DENISE LEVERTOV, Sands of the Well (Bloodaxe) £8.95
ELIZABETH JENNINGS, Praises (Carcanet) £6.95

Selected Poems contains work from David Scott's two previous collections A Quiet Gathering (1984) and Playing for England (1989) as well as a generous selection of more recent work. Scott's favoured form is the short, unrhymed lyric which he occasionally combines into larger sequences. At first glance this is a considerable limitation, reinforced by a slightly priggish attitude toward display evidenced by 'A Prayer at the putting on of our clothes':

Now the old changes of clothes are still around
to challenge the new. Why this? Why that?
Is it work or play today? Worse still
we go by the weather and change and change all day.
My prayer is again for the simple grey.

Although the reader could be forgiven for wishing that Scott's poetry would put on a little spandex and sequin, his technique of working up observed minutiae into significance is effective because of its consistency: each poem is like a detail in the larger tapestry. Moreover, this poetry carefully inscribes itself inside a tradition, what Norman Nicholson terms 'the long tradition of parson-poets that goes back at least as far as George Herbert'. Scott's cultural reference points include a number of prominent Victorian clergymen as well as Herbert, Thomas Merton, and St Teresa of Avila. Their author's consciousness of tradition lends weight and interest to the poems; his involvement and enthusiasm are winning. 'Dean Tait' describes the Dean of Carlisle's loss of five of his ...


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