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

EXPLAINING THE DAISY Phoebe Hesketh, Netting the Sun: New and Collected Poems (Enitharmon) £6.95

Over the past couple of years, even more than usually, some of the most satisfying new books of poetry have been collecteds by quite elderly and seriously neglected writers: now, to the revelatory lifetime collections of John Heath-Stubbs and E.J. Scovell must be added that of Phoebe Hesketh. They have more than age and neglect in common. For one thing, the former publishers named in their acknowledgements read like a roll-call of the once-great and good in literary publishing, emphasizing the extraordinary and necessary service now performed by Carcanet and Enitharmon. For another, they share a simple civility of manner, an unobtrusive assumption that we hold a culture in common - not, as Larkin put it in a famous and uncharacteristically foolish phrase, a 'myth-kitty', but an ability to use and enjoy at least some of civilisation's bequests to us.

In her Introduction to Netting the Sun, Anne Stevenson suggests that the poems be read in chronological order. She is only partly right, I think, for the reader who skips over some of Phoebe Hesketh's earliest pieces could be forgiven: here we are briefly in an excited, over-exclamatory world of beneficent nature and jovial rustics which Wordsworth would have recognised as in need of some roughening-up. That happens, triumphantly, in 'Northern Stone', from Hesketh's second collection, No Time for Cowards (1952):


Sap of the sullen moor is blood of my blood.
A whaleback ridge and whiplash of the wind
Stripping the ...


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