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This review is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

COSMIC CARMELITE Robinson Jeffers, Selected Poems, edited by Colin Falck (Carcanet), £6.95 pb.

Given the hometown of the poet under review and the setting of so much of his verse, one might be allowed at the outset the frivolity of assuming the role of cinematic toughie and snapping gangland-style: 'OK, make my day, Dirty Harry - step aside and give centre-stage to the Carmelite who'll really count with posterity!'

Provided Mayor Eastwood of Carmel, California, does break with the traditions of Show Biz publicity and efface himself in line with this demand, we can all attend - and in Britain for the first time - to a lengthy sampling of Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Pacific visionary, pantheist and scourge of Imperial America. The sombre voice from the tower house at Carmel is presented by Colin Falck on the occasion of Jeffers' centenary, in a curiously covered, oddly introduced Selected Poems. The cover features a photographic closeup of slimy sea rocks in stagnant shallows, possibly the nearest visual equivalent to the gaunt granite of Jeffers' imagination to be expected from the exhausted sensibility of post-Imperial England. (Jeffers would have expected little more, having written on a British visit: 'Here all's down hill and passively goes to the grave, / Asks only a pinch of pleasure between the darknesses, / Contented to think that everything has been done / That's in the scope of the race.') Falck's introduction rather backs into its subject, with an unnecessarily apologetic tone that is also somehow grudging, and a pigeon-holing of the poet as a 'romantic' which ...


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