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This article is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

American Pie Michael Hofmann

Amy Clampitt, The Kingfisher (Faber & Faber) £4.00 pb.
Rachel Hadas, Slow Transparency (Wesleyan University Press) $16.00, $7.95 pb.
Emily Grosholz, The River Painter (University of Illinois Press) $8.50
Alice Fulton, Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (University of Pennsylvania Press) $12.75, $5.90 pb.
John Matthias, Northern Summer (Anvil) £10.00, £6.95 pb.
Alan Shapiro, The Courtesy (University of Chicago Press) $5.05

The tsunami - to borrow from her exotic vocabulary/wardrobe - that has swept Amy Clampitt in record time across the Atlantic has done so at the expense of some reductions, both in the bulk of her first book, The Kingfisher, and in the warmth of the critical response it has so far received over here. Faber's British version of the book is shorter than the Knopf original by some fifty-seven pages. It has lost the division into six separate sections, twelve pages of part-botanically-impressive, part-apologetic-ingénue Notes (the title-poem is described as 'a novel trying to work itself into a piece of cloisonné'), and eighteen poems. Admittedly, most of the shed bulk has been affordable ballast.

The British reception of the book has been similarly muted - and is not attributable to the cuts described. It has been impressed, but also sceptical and reserved: not much like the chorus of praise (the 'tsunami of Greek voices', to give the word its due context), one seemed to hear from America. Thus, on the back cover of the Knopf edition, Richard Wilbur has written, 'In a slack, prosy time, it's a pleasure to ...


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