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This review is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

IDENTITIES AND DISGUISES Michael Longley, Poems 1963-1983 (Penguin) £3.95
E.A. Markham, Living in Disguise (Anvil) £5.95

There is a distinct world in Michael Longley's poetry. He has created it from a sense of lost values, out of lyric irony and with a considerable fortitude. The virtues of that world shine out all over this volume. The weakness of the achievement is equally pervasive: it often seems that he has not found a poetic persona worthy of the values he laments. Where there should be anger there is elegy; where there should be engagement there is whimsy. His tone often seems to be not quite right, even when his voice is most recognizable. Yet, in the end, he is a remarkably consistent poet and an unusually stoical one. He does not exactly thrust his world on the reader. He is more remote, shy and elegant with his themes than that. Nevertheless his poems lay out his feelings like a treasure map, with the emblems and metaphors serving as the clues to the find. If you undertake the journey, the poems seem to say, you will be rewarded.

There are five sections to this book, four of them comprising the work of previous volumes and the fifth containing some new poems. The development is easy to see. No Continuing City, the first book, is an independent, musical inventory of the young poet's world: loves, locations and interests. There is a bookish Georgianism about some of it. There is also something better. Even from this first book, in poems like 'Leaving Inishmore' there is a quirky, ...


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