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

Coming Out C. H. Sisson. In The Trojan Ditch. Carcanet Press 1974. 228 pp. £3.75.

FEW ENTRANCES could be so masterful, dramatically late, but timely, as C. H. Sisson's in this Collected Poems. Born in England in 1914, Sisson was silent for forty years, obscure for twenty more. Not that even now he will attract much notice: his work is the sort that stands clearer as more fashionable stuff slides away.

After a long career as a civil servant, indeed without abandoning it, Sisson almost instantly became a poet both willed and worthy to please some of the highest brows of the century: Pound, Eliot, T. E. Hulme. Yet the Sisson of The London Zoo (1961), Numbers (1965), and Metamorphoses (1968) was a more classic artist than any of these. The emotions he evoked, the situations he depicted, often seemed to exist independently of himself. An incisive analyst of human nature, he wrote like a curiously updated Latin epigrammatist, and in the mid twentieth century this was bold in proportion as it was reactionary - almost reprehensibly crisp and direct.

The updating lay, at first, in brutal quickness. Sisson made his verse leap before his whip:

My first trick was to clutch
At my mother and suck
Soon there was nothing to catch
But darkness and a lack . . .


The poet capable of writing this, conventionally communicative though it is, is capable of writing anything, something terrible . . . Sisson emerged and until recently remained a classic poet ...


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