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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

ARDEN/EDEN Charles Tomlinson, Collected Poems (OUP) £15.00; Eden (Redcliffe Poetry, Redcliffe Press) £5.25 pb.

Charles Tomlinson, being no glacial aesthete, is acutely sensitive to the misuse of certain adjectives. It is for this reason that there will be no nouns qualified with the words 'fastidious' or 'meticulous' in this review. These adjectives describe a state of contemplation that is both static and bloodless and Tomlinson's is a restless human eye, an eye that expects us to see and hear anew as we examine the relationship between fact and imagination and, in so doing, 'challenge the accepted vision'. For him, the writing of poetry is an act of steady appraisal, an appraisal that is acutely conscious of the perpetual instabilities of that which is perceived. To tease out the true nature of the act of seeing is a hard thing, but it is a challenge that Tomlinson is always throwing down: think of the times he has used the words 'Consider . . .' or 'Think of . . .'. What is it to see? What is it to hear? he asks, scrupulously exhorting us to hone our tools of perception. Of course there is no speaking of things except in relation to each other: things exist in a state of argumentative discord. By defining things we define all that we are not and cannot be; we learn a new humility when we acknowledge that we are the guests of objects: the mountain and the shell do not posture and cannot be appropriated. And in defining our singular acts of perception we chance upon ...


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