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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

A GENTLE SKILL J. C. Hall, Selected and New Poems 1939-84 (Secker & Warburg) £3.95 pb.

A selection of John Clive Hall's poetry first appeared in volume form (from the long defunct Staples Press) in 1943, alongside poems by Keith Douglas and Norman Nicholson. It is therefore a little misleading of his new publishers, Secker & Warburg, to inform us on the half-title verso of this new collection that his Selected Poems appeared in that year: he was one of a triumvirate of poets represented there. Three more collections have appeared in subsequent years: The Summer Dance (John Lehmann, 1951), The Burning Hare (Chatto & Windus, 1966), whose first section consisted of poems reprinted from the Lehmann volume, and A House of Voices (Chatto & Windus, 1973). Now, after a silence of twelve years, he has risen from the ashes of Chatto's late and much lamented Phoenix Living Poets Series. (We also know him as an editor of Keith Douglas and, more important, as an Edwin Muir scholar. In addition to a critical work on Muir, he edited the first Collected Poems 1921-1951 for the Hogarth Press, and subsequently completed, with Willa Muir, the editing of the new edition of the Collected Poems which appeared from Faber & Faber in 1960, a year after the poet's death.)

Is it not a little curious that after forty-five years of verse-making this book should be a Selected - and not a Collected? The author anticipated this question in his introduction: 'I considered this, but on re-reading my early work I found myself making more personal ...


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