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This review is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

ANOTHER LANGUAGE Rosemary Dobson, The Three Fates & Other Poems (Hale and Iremonger) n.p. pb.
Gwen Harwood, The Lion's Bride (Angus and Robertson) £3.95 pb.

These poets offer inviting coincidences: they were born ten days apart in 1920; each knows and writes well about another art; for each the negative aspect of child-rearing has been a vivid poetic stimulus; each has found central European thought and culture of special importance. Both are Australian.

Rosemary Dobson published her first volume (subsequently consigned to oblivion) before she was twenty; this is her eighth new volume of verse. In addition, she and David Campbell published two joint volumes of translations from the Russian, and she has had two volumes of Selected Poems. Her early poetry was marked by strong formal metres, first four- and then five-stress lines predominated; a striking proportion of the lines had feminine endings, which stretched them and made them seem longer than they were. In a country with a strong ballad tradition these rhythms sound less like light verse than they might do in England; her exploration of the variations of tetrameter rhythms have given her a fine feeling for Russian poetry. Many of her early poems were, or seemed to be, based on paintings, and she was criticized both for taking her art at second-hand and for using non-Australian hands at that. In retrospect the painting poems can be seen to be part of her development of a point of observation; she is a poet of seeing a scene. European painting gave her a stable place to stand, from which to notice loss, lost chances, the never graspable moment. In ...

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