PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Jen Schmitt on Ekphrasis Rachel Hadas on Text and Pandemic Kirsty Gunn Essaying two Jee Leong Koh Palinodes in the Voice of my Dead Father Maureen Mclane Correspondent Breeze
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This review is taken from PN Review 75, Volume 17 Number 1, September - October 1990.

CAUTIONARY TALES Arnold Rattenbury, editor, Geoffrey Matthews: War Poems (Whiteknights Press)

Geoffrey Matthews (1920-1984) produced no book of poems in his lifetime, although his published work in magazines earned the praise of, among others, Grigson, Rickword and Empson - a discriminating trio. His friend and fellow poet Arnold Rattenbury now introduces a selection of Matthews's poems written between 1939 and 1946. But this is no sentimental memorial volume: here is a poet who puts an earned and tested romanticism to work in tension with a world that seeks to write it off, one for whom the language constitutes inherited capital to be re-invested and increased; he conserves his strength and emotion, rather than dispersing them through simplistic self-expression. As Rattenbury comments, for him 'a personally plaintive poetry devoid of intellectual context or social direction, however lauded in recent years, must be despicable'. A salutary judgement.

Certainly these poems are tough, rigorous in their strict forms and compressed energy, and are often beautiful. The earlier ones belong to a familiar tradition, but the vigilant working of word with word is very much Matthews's own.


On foot in silence tonight over the spare fells
Easily I can obey the strict convention of death
That rhymes the horizon and the earth, and
   pads the waterfalls
With a mute syllable, and buries the stone
   sheep beneath
Their towering hill - a grey Gulliver bound
   down by walls.


'Spare', 'convention', 'pads' - such ambiguities enlarge the metaphorical 'rhyme', ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image