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

THE GREAT STONEMAKERS STANLEY MOSS, Asleep in the Garden: New and Selected Poems (Anvil) £9.95
DONALD JUSTICE, Orpheus Hesitated Beside the Black River: Poems 19521997 (Anvil) £8.95
AIDAN MATHEWS, According to the Small Hours (Cape) £8.00

Stanley Moss, born in 1925, is a complex Jewish poet from a cosmopolitan, New York, suburban background. His poetry shows a development in a lifelong quest, which is derivative of biblical themes, but by no means overshadowed by them. His sources reach beyond these, drawing on zoology, paleontology, and anthropology, for example. The result, after an absorbing and entertaining journey, is a triumphant consummation in old age. He achieves an almost prophetic sense of vocation. It is typical of his Jewishness that this is kept in check by his professional life as a dealer in oil paintings; and the editorship of The Sheep Meadow Press.

His collection reflects and advances on his three previous collections, made at 44, 50, and 64, all published by Anvil. Jerusalem, Psalm, Noah, Prayer, God Poem, leap from the list of contents. This is not to suggest we place the book to one side; rather the contrary. After an opening rocky ride, we settle down with an engaging personality. He has a quirky attitude to Judaism, which constantly wrong-foots any sense of predictability:

He wrote scripture on the inner surface of a bowl,
poured water in, stirred until the writing was dissolved,
then filled his mouth, gargled, swallowed, and grinned.
                                                           ('The First Days of March')

This sense of digestive commitment is not a coincidence. It is a reference to Ezekiel 3:1. God says to Ezekiel: 'Son of man, eat what is offered to ...


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