PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Beverley Bie Brahic, after Leopardi's 'Broom' Michael Freeman Benefytes and Consolacyons Miles Burrows At Madame Zaza’s and other poems Victoria Kenefick Hunger Strike Hilary Davies Haunted by Christ
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

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

A NAME TO CONJURE WITH Tom Raworth, Tottering State: Selected and New Poems 1963-1983 (The Figures, Berkeley) $11.50. (U.K. distribution: Paul Green. 83b London Road, Peterborough, Cambs.)

The title of Tottering State looks both inside and outside the poet. Puns of that order recur over the twenty years covered by this book, at once estranged and dryly humorous. However, further kinds of doubleness inhabit the poems: in a TLS review of Raworth's book-length poem Writing (not represented here), Colin MacCabe remarked on a tension amounting to opposition between 'the voice, which constantly places the self, and writing, which offers the possibility of a continual displacement'. This is most vividly the case in Raworth's long poems of recent date such as Ace, and 'West Wind' - a superb poem, previously uncollected - with which this selection concludes. In the enigmatic columns of this recent work the reader is confronted by what is to say the least a


fright
fully
extended
syntax
(Ace)


It is carried without a pause over pages: there are rarely four words to a line; punctuation and capital letters, including the sacrosanct 'I', are ostracized. There is indeed, to take up MacCabe's point, a creative friction between the poem's resemblance to a human voice and the pages' equally strong resemblance to a computer print-out. We are left unsure as to whether the poem is the articulation of a consistent personality (extended syntax) or the recording of a blitzkreig of voices and stimuli from outside. Further tension arises from our uncertainty as to whether the perpetual displacements of the second are Utopian or ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image