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This review is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

DOYEN AND DYNAMO A.D. Hope, Selected Poems, chosen and introduced by Ruth Morse (Carcanet) £3.95 pb.
Les A. Murray, Selected Poems (Carcanet) £3.95 pb.

Marianne Moore held that 'when we think we don't like art it is because it is artificial art', and when I don't like A.D. Hope's poetry it is because its artificiality can sound like this:


Now the year walks among the signs of heaven,
Swinging her large hips, smiling in all her motions,
Crosses with dancing steps the Milky Valley.
Round her the primal energies rejoice;
All the twelve metaphysical creatures and the seven
Swift spheres adore her vigour; the five oceans
  Look up and hear her voice
Ring through the ebony vault, where Ara Celi
Flames, and the choiring stars at their devotions
  With pure and jubilant noise
Praise and proclaim four seasons in her belly.


Tirelessly critics have scolded Hope for being élitist, academic, bookish, and downright second-hand, and for setting his wilful face against the last two centuries of his art; and, reading these opening lines from 'Soledades of the Sun and the Moon', I want to join them. In 'William Butler Yeats', Hope praises Yeats for having 'found at last that noble, candid speech / In which all things worth saying may be said', and introducing his 1966 Selected Poems he argues for a poetic language that is 'plain, lucid, coherent, logically connected, syntactically exact, and firmly based in current idiom and usage'. So far so good, I think, but then I read Hope's poetry and more ...


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