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This article is taken from PN Review 77, Volume 17 Number 3, January - February 1991.

Postmodernism and Alan Curnow Donald Davie

HAVING BELATEDLY DECIDED or discovered that postmodernism is something more malign than a buzz-word or passing fad, I am pursuing my researches into what it is or what is meant by it. Of course there are quite large books which offer to instruct me. One such is Linda Hutcheon's A Poetics of Postmodernism, (Routledge, 1988). When I consult the capacious index to this, the only poets I can find are Ashbery, John (two entries); Eliot, T.S. (eleven); Pound, Ezra (eight); and Shakespeare, William (six). When I discover that on the other hand Eagleton, Terry, scores 26, Jameson, Fredric, 39, and Lyotard, Jean-François, 30, I am forced to recognize that Professor Hutcheon's understanding of 'poetics' isn't mine, and that I must grub about elsewhere.

In these straits I have been offered what looks like a blessedly short cut by the TLS for September 14-20 this year, which carries a review of Allen Curnow's Selected Poems 1940-1989 (Penguin). This would have grabbed my attention anyway, since Curnow and I have been aware of each other since appearing in the dear damned Poetry London more than forty years ago; I have always respected his work; and he and his wife stayed with us, briefly but memorably, some seven years ago. I will say at once that this paperback volume seems to me a stunning achievement, and a very great improvement on his earlier Selected Poems, also from Penguin, in 1982. His poems are far too good to serve merely as ...


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