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

LOOKING AND BEING SEEN Charles Tomlinson, Notes from New York (OUP) £4.50 pb.
Tom Disch, Here I am, There You Are, Where Were We (Hutchinson), £4.95 pb.
Harry Guest, Lost and Found (Anvil Press Poetry) £4.95 pb.
Sheila Wingfield, Collected Poems (Enitharmon Press) £5.25 pb.

Charles Tomlinson's Notes from New York is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. I wonder if the recommendation indicates that Tomlinson's verse is becoming comfortable - or familiar - enough for the eminences grises who decide such things? Tomlinson, after all, has little in common with the Thwaites and Lerners, those whose verse is safely tinged with Limehouse Pink; he has always been comparatively neglected by English readers. But Notes from New York demonstrates that those who neglect Tomlinson are neglecting a considerable poet.

Despite what seems to be a more overt use of metrical structures, the collection is uncompromising in that themes familiar from earlier Tomlinson are again explored. Perspectives on water, on desert, and on light - the perspectives embraced by Zukofsky's statement 'To see is to inform all speech' - are investigated with civility and exactitude. Yet what is new about the collection is that 'relationship' is not simply defined on visual quiddities but on the existence of objects in time. To pursue a mildly picturesque analogy, it is as if a geologist, tapping concentratedly at a particular vein of rock for years, has suddenly looked up and become newly aware of the entire cliff face. But the analogy is too simple to do justice to Tomlinson's work here; the neat seams appear to have been perceived in a vertigo formed by the complexities of history and the difficult contingencies of human passage. Although it is hard to quote in brief from Tomlinson, I take ...


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