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This review is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

Avril Horner WOMEN OF WIT

Fleur Adcock's new anthology of poetry rides the wave of current literary and commercial interest in women's writing. Careful not to overlap too much with either Carol Rumens' Making for the Open or Jeni Couzyn's Contemporary Women Poets, she maps out women's poetry of the twentieth-century in a distinctive and interesting manner, generously making room for sixty-four poets and going back as far as Charlotte Mew, born in 1869. The advantage of this range is that it accurately reflects 'the great variety of styles in which women poets are writing and have written'; its disadvantage is a common feature of anthologies - one poem is rarely sufficient to give any satisfactory sense of that poet's work. The writers are presented chronologically by date of birth and the somewhat arbitrary cut-off date of 1945 means that the youngest poets here are Eavan Boland, Wendy Cope and Selima Hill. The voice of the black woman is marginal: Gwendolyn Brooks and June Jordan make it in, but Alice Walker and Grace Nichols do not. There are many names one would expect to see, including Judith Wright, Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, and Anne Stevenson. Some eyebrows might be raised at the fact that Elizabeth Jennings is represented by only two poems and H.D. by four short pieces but as Fleur Adcock sensibly points out, H.D.'s epic poetry, now seen as 'her most substantial work', does not easily lend itself to 'being excerpted'. However, as with any anthology, the most interesting feature is the ...


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