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

THE ART OF THE MATTER William Logan, Difficulty (The Salamander Press) £3.95 pb.
John Montague, The Dead Kingdom (OUP) £4.95 pb.
Adrian Mitchell, On the Beach At Cambridge (Allison & Busby) £3.50 pb.
Selima Hill, Saying Hello At The Station (Chatto & Windus) £2.95 pb.
Paul Hyland, The Stubborn Forest (Bloodaxe) £3.95 pb.
Peter Bennet, Sky-Riding (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets) £4.50 pb.

A recent PN editorial commented that the poetic voices most immanent in the work of contemporary - especially, young - poets are those of Hardy, Kipling, and Masefield. If this is true, the result of such immanence threatens to become a sameness that might have appealed to whatever was iconoclastic in those three spirits. It is a sameness in the English tradition, which Samuel Hynes suggested was 'traditional in a traditional way' ('The Hardy Tradition in Modern English Verse', 1980). There seems to be a tacit consensus, for example, concerning poetic form; the result is a decorum that occasionally looks like a refusal to compete. There is a knowingness within what might loosely be called the Verse Community that translates itself into the usual structural gestures. Moreover, there has been of late (judging from the books that arrive on my desk) a surprising polarization of subject-matter: on the one hand, ancestries and foreign travel; on the other, birth, preserves and moving house. Symptoms of loss vs. the foetal ditch. A crude distinction, of course, but one that can prompt Editor's Ennui and its lesser species, Reviewer's Whinge. What I am really complaining of here is paradoxically the excellence - in one sense - of English versecraft. English - British - poets are technically skilled; everyone who has read 'English Literature' and done a certain amount of writing knows that there are certain tricks that can be played with language which make it locally effective: a poem's 'argument' can be ...


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