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This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

A VASTER AIR Allen Curnow, Continuum (Auckland University Press; distributed in the UK by Oxford University Press) £16.50.
Lauris Edmond, Summer near the Arctic Circle (Oxford University Press) £5.95 pb.

The achievement of Allen Curnow is formidable. With Beckett he is the last of the great High Modernists. Like Beckett he has tended his words sensitively, in a spirit of wise husbandry, and the resulting oeuvre, though not vast in extent, is rich in human understanding and beauty. He is the great living poet of the English language.

Continuum is an essential book. It collects (in reverse chronological order) the complete contents of Trees, Effigies, Moving Objects (1972), An Abominable Temper (1973), An Incorrigible Music (1979), You Will Know When You Get There (1982) and The Loop in Lone Kauri Road (1986) and adds six recent poems. When this collected volume of the late work is supplemented in 1990 by the forthcoming generous selection from the complete work in Penguin's International Poets series, the British reader will finally be in an adequate position to assess Allen Curnow's range and command.

In the new poem which aptly lends its title to the book,


The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind
my house, and the moon does neither of these things,
I am talking about myself,


In the same two minds as ever, Allen Curnow registers what he sees, doubts the truth of the perception, observes himself doubting, and reaches the conclusion that he himself is his true subject. One continuity with his earlier work is the self-scrutinizing Cartesian doubt (coupled with implied nostalgia for ...


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