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

LET'S ROAR, YOUR HONOUR Raymond Carver, A New Path To The Waterfall (poems), (Collins Harvill), £11.

Raymond Carver died of cancer in 1988, aged fifty. Characteristically he chose on a number of occasions in his last illness to celebrate that minimal longevity, having been told a decade earlier that his life would be cut short by alcoholism:


I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don't forget it.


That one of the leading short story writers of his generation said his farewell with a volume of poetry brings a couple of problems along with it. Tess Gallagher, in her moving introduction, puts the first when she suggests that lovers of his fiction might 'feel he had gone astray in giving so much time to poetry in the final years'.

As it happens, these are very much the kind of poems you might expect (and hope) a story writer would produce. Gallagher describes how, in the last months, she would begin each day by reading a Chekhov tale and would then come down to breakfast and tell Ray what it was about. You could tell someone what these poems are about in exactly the same way. They are chockfull of the sort of anecdotes which could be abstracted from the poetic fabric and discussed over breakfast. Perhaps this shouldn't be possible with fully achieved poetry, but it seems churlish to complain.

The early poem "Miracle", for example, flows from an odd yet believable vignette, the kind of surrealism ...


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