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This review is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

CHEFS IN WARTIME Anvil New Poetry, edited by Graham Fawcett (Anvil) £7.95
New Women Poets, edited by Carol Rumens (Bloodaxe) £6.95
Peterloo Preview 2, edited by Harry Chambers (Peterloo) £6.95
Twenty of the Best, edited by Duncan Glen (Galliard) £5.95
Seren Poets 2 (Seren) £5.99
The Changing Tide (London Voices) £3.50

The anthologist is like a chef in wartime, forever explaining and complaining about the ingredients available to him. 'The necessity of selection is never a pleasant one,' writes Carol Rumens (isn't it, though?), before telling us that her book was constrained by 'some unchallengable decree' about size, by the criterion 'that none of the poets should have previously published a book', and by the need to give 'a broad sense of what is going on now.' Duncan Glen worries that he has 'omitted some young poets I might have wished to include' by excluding anyone who appears in The Best of Scottish Poetry. The other editors endure their self-deprivations in silence, though I suspect that only Fawcett and Chambers were able to choose what they liked, irrespective of gender, nationality, or anything else.

It's one of the mild ironies of anthology-making that two of the outstanding new women poets are not in New Women Poets but in Anvil New Poetry, a book which starts off with a double advantage: the stunning typographical cover by Tamasin Cole and the stunning opening poem by Shirley Bell. That poem, 'What?', in four short stanzas and a two-line coda, charts the progress of an evening out ('She paints her face for the friend of a friend, / dabs a Christmas perfume on her wrists') which ends in rape:

They argue in the underpass. She is begging
for a taxi or a late-night bus. People look
   away.
...


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