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This review is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.


'The English have rather sloppy ideas about the relation between mind and feelings,' Charles Tomlinson said. 'One can only sigh and go on believing there is such a thing as passionate intellect.' It is a rueful comment and probably true. The prevailing taste is for a poetry that is all heart and gut, without much between the ears; or that moves with what Donald Davie despairingly calls 'the dying fall', nostalgic and resigned; or that trades in playful paradoxes and ironies.

Charles Tomlinson sighs - and goes on writing intellectual and passionate poetry. He envies French its 'power of sensuous abstraction' and tries to find such qualities in English. There is, for instance, his six-part sequence 'Movements', which includes these lines about how perception works:

How soon, in the going down, will he
  Outdistance himself, lose touch to gain
The confidence of what would use him? Where
  Does he stand - beyond the customary ritual,
The habitual prayer? We live
  In an invisible church, a derisible hurt,
A look-out tower, point of powerlessness:
  The kingdom he has entered is a place
Of sources not of silences; memory does not rule it,
  But memory knows her own there
In finding names for them, reading
  By the flames the found words kindle
Their unburnable identities: the going down
  Is to a city of shapes, not a pit of shades
(For all ...

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