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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

ATTENDANT ON SHADOWS Peter Dale, Too Much of Water: Poems 1976-82 (Agenda Editions) £4.00


The window reflects the galleon of fire still
yards off in the dark, some useless knick-knack.
Rain drips regularly from the loose tile.
A wren ruffles the feathers round its neck,
sheltering in the gutter from the muffled knocks
of continual rain. Time to draw the blinds.
The galleon vanishes. A leaf zigzags as it lands.


I quote these lines from 'Unaddressed Letter', first published in 1970, as a needed reminder of just how good a poet Peter Dale can be. Yet Dale's work as an editor and translator is now better known than his poetry. I can't think why. We find in Dale's progress as a poet a single-minded, almost stubborn, adherence to certain primary themes: love, marriage, death. He is a master at recording in a few words the subtle variations within a wide range of feelings. His essentially serious desire is to render human emotion truthfully. This seriousness, almost earnestness, while it can give rise to somewhat stiff poems, has also enabled him to write some of our more moving poems of the last fifteen years. That 'Unaddressed Letter', 'The Storms', 'Elegy' or 'Thinking of Writing a Letter', all included in Mortal Fire (Agenda Editions, 1976), are not better known points to a failure in both readers and critics to recognize the real thing.

Although Dale's best poems express personal emotion, either his own or fictive, his range is wider than this ...


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