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

IT CRIES 'BEHOLD' Craig Raine, Rich (Faber) £5.95, £2.95 pb.

Rich is, I think, a magnificent collection, flawed - it is true - by that ostentation and sense of superiority which we associate with Craig Raine, but wholly human in its love of life. Of course the ingenuity is still there: 'these are her eggshells/ cracked on the kitchen table/like an umpire's snail/of cricketers' caps', or 'Iron filings shine/in her shaven armpits', or the 'usherette/by Salvador Dali/with a drawer in her midriff/full of ice cream', or (of pigeons pouring from a basket): 'a ravel of light/like oxygen/escaping underwater'. Granted, Raine's poetry is like the gift described in a poem here: 'Intricate with images,/it cried behold'. His poetry is intricate with images, and it does demand attention: in Raine there is a strong vein of the immaturity that needs hero-worship. But I have never understood the case against these images, which, even though they can become something of a tic, give real and ample satisfactions. And (importantly) they are not an end in themselves, but serve fuller purposes.

'In Modern Dress', for example, illustrates Raine's technique, begun in A Martian Sends a Postcard Home in 'Karma', 'Shallots' and 'Dandelions' and developed in Rich in 'A Free Translation' and 'The Man Who Invented Pain' also, of uniting a poem around one complex of imagery. In the three poems from the 1979 collection the imagery was all drawn from Indian life and mythology; in 'A Free Translation' it comes from China and Japan, in 'The Man Who Invented Pain' from ...


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