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

GLASS WALLS A. S. J. Tessimond, Collected Poems (The Whiteknights Press) £8.95

A. S. J. Tessimond died in 1962, aged 59. He published three collections during his lifetime (one each in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s). Two posthumous selections were published in 1978 and 1980. Now his literary executor Hubert Nicholson has assembled all these volumes, plus some previously uncollected poems. The result is a very attractively printed gathering of just over 200 short poems, including 25 unremarkable versions from Prévert (although there are some odd lacunae in the first, 'Pater Noster', and a line unaccountably omitted from 'Le jardin'). It is perhaps in the nature of such exercises that there should be a tendency towards excessive editorial claims - 'his was not only a rich and individual talent but one of the authentic and significant voices of his time'. This is to exaggerate Tessimond's achievement, though there are certainly some real pleasures to be had from his work. Nicholson's introduction tells a tale of manic depression and sexual difficulties, of night-club hostesses and 'four or five successive psychoanalysts'. The poems record a profound urban alienation. The note of isolation is an insistent one, the virtual impossibility of human contact a recurrent theme:


You cannot see the walls that divide your hand
From his or hers or mine when you think you touch it.

You cannot see the walls because they are glass,
And glass is nothing until you try to pass it.

Beat on it if you like, but not ...


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