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This review is taken from PN Review 70, Volume 16 Number 2, November - December 1989.

JUSTICE & REALITY Kathleen Raine, Selected Poems (Golgonooza Press), £7.95 pb.
Thomas Blackburn, The Adjacent Kingdom: Collected Last Poems, edited and with an Introduction by Jean MacVean (Peter Owen), £7.50 pb.
Tom Raworth, tottering state, Selected Poems 1963-1987, (Paladin), £5.95.
'Language' Poetries: an anthology, edited with an Introduction by Douglas Messerli (New Directions), $9.95.
Mebh McGuckian, On Ballycastle Beach (Oxford University Press), £4.95.

In his Alexander Stone lecture on Edwin Muir given last year, Seamus Heaney referred to "Yeats's great challenge to hold in a single thought reality and justice", a challenge he felt Muir had failed to meet in his poetry. Much as one admires the beauty of certain of Kathleen Raine's poems, and recognizes the value of what she has to say in her splendid book of essays, Defending Ancient Springs, as well as in Blake and Tradition, one feels that she, too, has failed to meet Yeats's challenge. The collocation of her name with Muir's should show that I do not think this failure a dishonourable or greatly damaging one. It is, though, a limitation.

As to the nature of this limitation, a passing reference to Kathleen Raine's views of Blake by Czeslaw Milosz in The Land of Ulro is apposite. He remarks that certain commentators have attempted to claim Blake for neo-Platonism, and then draws attention to The Book of Thel, in which the virgin Thel flees from the possibilities of experience back to "the values of Har", where, says Milosz, "barren, useless purity will be her punishment". The reason's for Blake's greatness as a poet are, surely, his purchase on reality, the value he attaches to experience, and his ability, as in that great and infinitely rich theodicy The Tyger, to "hold in a single thought reality and justice". Perhaps the principal weakness of those 20th-century British poets, including that wonderful and much underrated Welsh ...


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