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

GEORGIAN GAIETY James Schuyler, Selected Poems (Carcanet) £16.95

One may be reminded by James Schuyler when he is writing at his best of Robert Walser, the Swiss, who was, in Christopher Middleton's words, 'a stranger to the realm of ideas' and who 'brings a new world of sensibility, an unmediated vision of experience, an image of reality seen without the interference of a concept'. Many of the poems in Schuyler's earlier, and better, collections take the form of what one might call explorations in observation, whether obviously, as when he recounts what he sees during a walk, or less so, as when he describes what he sees from the window. His poems are charactistically light-footed, quickly passing from one perception to the next, and so are altogether unlike the strenuous description of an object or objects that one finds in the work of Ted Hughes, a method (for it is often that) which depends on a disjunction between observer and observed and which results in a curiously-wrought aesthetic object that is an index of a subjective journey and stands clear of the object it purports to stand for.

Schuyler's perceptions, though, seem effortless, his verbal discoveries seeming to match the quick sensitivity of his perceptual discoveries, the undwelled-upon object shining through the words; there is an impression of unlaboured exactness about such lines and phrases as these:

       when by the window
a wisteria hangs its violet lights
creased with a sunny pallor
                          ('Scarlet Tanager')


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