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

TRIMMING Anthony Thwaite, Poems 1953-1983 (Secker & Warburg) £8.95

Alert to the spirit of the times, Anthony Thwaite is at pains to give value (with convenience) at a price we can afford. As he explains in his preface, had he included all those poems he might wish to see preserved, his book would have turned out 'too unwieldy and too expensive'. Poems 1953-1983 is, therefore, neither a 'selected' nor a 'collected'. The poet has chosen 'a middle course': 'Others will say whether there is too little or too much'. But this is not quite so self-effacing as it seems: the poems are boldly (and illogically) opus-numbered, à la Levi.

What the book actually contains is the bulk of Thwaite's verse of the late 1950s and 1960s, a brief selection from Home Truths (1957) and from New Confessions (1974), almost all of A Portion for Foxes (1977), the whole of Victorian Voices (1980) - but excluding the notes: surely a mistake - and a small group (approximately half, we are told) of his recent uncollected poems. This is neither too little nor too much. It is, rather, quite enough to sustain the record of the steadily increasing accomplishment of a model of literary self-improvement. Poems 1953-1983 is an exemplary book. It shows how a modest, bookish talent, almost devoid of originality, but possessed of considerable latent rhetorical gifts - and a shrewd ear to the poetical main chance - through early and wise investment in the 'well-made poem' made - a not unenviable reputation for fine writing. ...


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