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This review is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

IONIC Edmund Keeley, Modern Greek Poetry: Voice and Myth (Princeton University Press) £24.60

This volume continues and extends the indefatigable Edmund Keeley's services to lovers of Modern Greek poetry. A collection of essays, introductions, and occasional pieces written over a period of seventeen years, the book is inevitably uneven in quality; it is also somewhat blurred in intention and focus, and an individual (not to say idiosyncratic) viewpoint and tone such as might inform a collection of such pieces by Auden, Wilson, or Jarrell never emerges.

But the poets who are the subjects of these pieces - Cavafy, Seferis, Sikelianos, Elytis, Ritsos - are also uneven in quality. Indeed, my chief uneasiness as I read through Voice and Myth came to be impatience with Professor Keeley's apparent reluctance to pass judgement on the poets he knows so well. Without demanding a sternly magisterial ranking from this gentle-mannered critic, we are surely entitled to know what one of the foremost authorities on Modern Greek letters really thinks of Ritsos, Sikelianos, or Elytis. Is it not the function of a volume of criticism to tell us just that? But of the pieces gathered here, some are introductions to volumes of Keeley's translations, some examinations of specific passages, poems, or problems. We are never given a critical overview, a regrettable omission that might have been remedied by a comprehensive introduction or concluding essay.

Nevertheless Modern Greek Poetry: Voice and Myth does offer material of interest, mostly for readers who are at least somewhat familiar with Cavafy and Seferis, the book's main ...


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