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

MY TASTE WAS ME D.J. Enright. Selected Poems 1990 (Oxford University Press) £6.95

'Great art,' insists Seamus Heaney somewhere, 'is comforting.' But can it not be other things as well? Discomfiting, say? For when it sets out to be comforting, D.J. Enright's art often approaches a generalized and fuzzy pathos that borders on sentimentality, whereas when it is discomfiting (as in the early and justly admired 'The Laughing Hyena, after Hokusai', which is about a very disconcerting work) it is at its very best. 'The Laughing Hyena' ends also by stating what I think one must call 'a general and operative truth', or at least a sincerity that derives convincingly from the wonderfully lively description of a wonderfully lively work of art, a sincerity that seems wholly appropriate and which you immediately respect and assent to.

And then, in 'Life and Letters', another early poem which immediately follows 'The Laughing Hyena' in this selection, there is this superbly eloquent final stanza:


Which is why I try to write lucidly, that
   even I
Can understand it - and mildly, being loath
   to face the fashionable terrors,
Or venture among sinister symbols, under
   ruin's shadow.
Once having known, at an utter loss, that
   utter incomprehensiion
- Unseen, unsmelt, the bold bat, the cloud
   of jasmine,
Truly out of one's senses - it is unthinkable
To drink horror from ink, to sink into the
   darkness of words.
Words one has chosen onself. Poems, at
   least, ...


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