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This review is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

MORE THAN NATURE Michael Riviere, Selected Poems (The Mandeville Press, 2 Taylor's Hill, Hitchin, Herts) £2.25

In his conversation with Grevel Lindop (PNR 40) James Fenton draws attention to the fact that the poet's job is to write well; not to write a lot or to 'develop' or to make a travelling exhibition of his 'personality', but to write well. He cites the eighteenth-century poets Gray, Collins, Goldsmith, Dr Johnson, and says 'What you do is write a sodding good poem. Dr Johnson is a good poet. Nobody denies it, nobody says his work is not bulky enough to give him the title of poet'. Michael Riviere is also a good poet; his work has its own tone, its own accuracy and rhythm, when you have read it you don't forget it, you believe what he says; the fact that his output is even smaller than that of Collins and Dr Johnson in no way invalidates it. Spareness is part of the nature and integrity of such poetry; to ask for a 'gold-tooled, thousand page, double-columned Collected Poems' (I'm quoting Fenton again) from such a poet would be like asking for the collected speeches from the throne of William the Silent.

Michael Riviere has more than brevity in common with Collins and Johnson. The sensibility in his poems draws its strength from within, and it can appear very at odds with the world about it, but that strength exists in order to feed back into the world; his work is never a self-communing reverie - a very high percentage of the poems are ...


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