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This review is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

A MOST FURIOUS FOOL David Gascoyne, Collected Poems 1988 (OUP) £7.95 pb.

This monument to diverse poetic achievement is certain to perform a valuable service in provoking fresh discussion of a writer who has published relatively little verse in the last thirty years. The discussion will be all the more salutary since the near-silence of David Gascoyne has placed him in danger of being type-cast as merely a British adjunct (belated, as per the Great English Culture Lag) of international Surrealism.

Gascoyne, now seventy-two, is of course a fixture in the literary histories of the 1930s and 1940s, esteemed by many of his contemporaries. But established Names often go unread by their immediate juniors. Thus the poems assembled here, the earliest published when Gascoyne was sixteen, will perhaps surprise the young, not only for their range but because, seen together, they suggest that his Surrealism was primarily a prelude to what now may be ranked as his best work. In this and other respects, Gascoyne will be regarded in a new light by latterday readers - which makes it a pity that the 1988 Collected lacks a preliminary re-evaluation of his poetry by some authoritative outsider to supplement the 'Introductory Notes' by the poet himself. The Notes are valuable though they are somewhat random and in one instance - the elegy to Paul Eluard - make the poem's fulsome phraseology sound hollow indeed.

The poems written between 1937 and 1942 stand out as the high point of this book. The religious sequence 'Miserere' is astringent and compelling, ...


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