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

DISCOVERING THE BRITISH DISSONANCE A. Kingsley Weatherhead, The British Dissonance (University of Missouri Press) £17.95

This is the sort of introduction to an alternative set of British poets that needs to be widely available in this country. With its avoidance of elaborate theory, with its photographs and bibliographies of the poets, with its gentle progression from description to analysis within each essay, it could have served admirably to guide a public whose reading had not hitherto included most of the featured poets: Charles Tomlinson, Roy Fisher, Matthew Mead, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, David Jones, Basil Bunting, Anselm Hollo, Lee Harwood and Tom Raworth. But alas, this necessary book has been published by an American university press, and is expensive and difficult to obtain. This makes it a 'specialist' book, though it will not, I fear, tell the specialist much that he or she did not already know.

Given the diversity among the poets of the 'British Dissonance', as he calls it, it is not surprising to find Weatherhead refusing to unify their stylistic procedures under a single aesthetic. Instead, they are said to demonstrate various departures from traditional poetic form, the order of which these poets have come to see as alien to the order (or lack of it) of the reality upon which it is dictatorially imposed. This has resulted in most cases in an insistence upon fragmentation and openness, at the level of both form and content, which owes a general debt to American forms of aesthetic dissonance. Weatherhead returns to these themes, from a shifting perspective, in each of ...


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