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This review is taken from PN Review 128, Volume 25 Number 6, July - August 1999.

BY DINT OF EACH PARTICULAR NICHOLAS JOHNSON ed., Etruscan Reader 1 (Etruscan Books) £7.50
GAEL TURNBULL, For Whose Delight (Mariscat) £5.95 (free with Etruscan Reader 1)

The title of the relaunched Etruscan series is a bitter allusion to Richard Wilbur's epigram on poetic oblivion, 'To the Etruscan Poets', as well as an invocation of Josiah Wedgwood's Etruria pottery. A spin-off from the Six Towns Festival, which was coordinated by Nicholas Johnson during its six-year life, the Etruscan series shares the three-in-one format of the new Penguin Modern Poets, but inverts the qualification for inclusion. Roy Fuller's jibe at the original PMP (1962-79) - 'Who would have thought that it would come to include not only so many, but so many strange names?' - makes a rather handsome epitaph. What about Elmslie, Koch and Schuyler in 1974? There is no room for 'strange names' amongst the current PMP, nor for celebrities amongst the Etruscans. Johnson's edition of Séan Rafferty was a reminder that neglect is indiscriminate; his interest stimulated the 'mysterious late excellence' of Peacocks. Full Stop, making 'amends' to a poet who had met oblivion halfway: 'Silence, your sin; let silence make amends'. All three lists include duff as well as excellent poets, naturally, but Robin Blaser, Bill Griffiths, Randolph Healy and Maurice Scully are names that ought to be less strange than they are.

Etruscan Reader 1 opens with Helen MacDonald's first collection, Safety Catch, which comprises her 1993 Poetical Histories pamphlet, Simple Objects, together with a dozen other pieces. The blurb alludes to her 'Cambridge School peers', though 'exemplars' might be a more appropriate term. Still in her mid-twenties, MacDonald is ...


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