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This review is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

IN THE LABYRINTH Michael Hulse, Eating Strawberries in the Necropolis (Collins Harvill) £5.95
Glyn Maxwell, Tale of the Mayor's Son (Bloodaxe) £5.95
Andrew Motion, Love in a Life (Faber & Faber) £4.99


     ... gréy in the bríght

of a stárry níght, fingers of líght
unclénching ténderlý acróss
the bláck and fráctured géntlenéss of wáter ...


One could point also to the alliteration of, in particular, ls, and perhaps other patterns of sound. Nevertheless, these lines could only have been written by someone who wasn't listening to what he was doing, and no amount of analysis is going to make them sound any better, for, despite what many people think, the possibility of analysis is no index of quality. 'Twentieth-century intellectualism', remarked the great German baritone Heinrich Schlusnus, 'has shown itself incapable of dealing with the simplicity of song.' Not that simplicity precludes complexity, as an analysis of, say, Campion's 'So sweet is thy discourse to me' (which contains, in the first stanza, a number of delicately managed chimes on 'i') will show; but in this poem the complexity is in the service of the simplicity, whose immediate grace cannot be reduced to a sort of bricklaying with sounds on the part of its creator, or an ostentatious fiddling with rhythms, line-lengths and line-endings that precludes the possibility of any sustained and coherent movement. Michael Hulse's fault here is the same fault that one finds sometimes in the verse of Charles Tomlinson, and it derives, I suspect, from the same misconception that makes so many performances of classical music nowadays not worth listening to: instead of thinking about the expression first and ...


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