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

LOVE AMONG THE HAYSTACKS The Faber Book of Blue Verse, edited by John Whitworth (Faber) £14.99
The Chatto Book of Love Poetry, edited by John Fuller (Chatto) £13.99
Whatever You Desire, edited by Mary Jo Bang (The Oscars Press) £4.95
Take Any Train, edited by Peter Daniels (The Oscars Press) £4.95

The Faber Book of Blue Verse is quite a stylish title in itself. Unfortunately it is not accurate. The only definition the OED gives of 'blue', except of course when talking about the colour, is 'obscene' and I doubt if even Mrs Whitehouse would so describe many of the poems in this anthology. 'About Coupling' (Fleur Adcock) is simply an elegant poem about masturbation, as agreeably far from lewdness as it is from gentility. 'Arsehole' (Craig Raine) is a poem which belongs - to adapt Leavis - more to the history of publicity than of pornography. The editor, John Whitworth, seems to have been blessed with the same sort of mind as the Bowdler family who made their fortune by seeing smut everywhere.

The book had much better have been called The Book of Naughty Verse; it appears to be intended for moments of innocent devilry. And many of the devils appear to be schoolpersons. One of the techniques employed here used to be very popular behind the bicycle sheds of my youth. You start a poem with two rhymed lines, the rhymes being, say, 'luck' and 'stuck'; you then move on to the clinching line and just when everybody is expecting a Worse Word you dodge it and everybody falls about.

Then there are the acrostics. Oliver St John Gogarty's poem about coming back from the wars, 'The Gallant Irish Yeoman', included in this anthology, is demureness itself until somebody points out that the ...


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