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This review is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

SPARKLERS AND BANGERS News that Stays News: The Twentieth Century in Poems, edited by Simon Rae (Faber) £9.99
101 Sonnets from Shakespeare to Heaney, edited by Don Paterson (Faber) £4.99
Short and Sweet: 101 very short poems, edited by Simon Armitage (Faber) £4.99
The Forward Book of Poetry 2000 (Forward Publishing/Faber) £7.95
Time's Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century, edited by Carol Ann Duffy (Anvil) £7.95

Domes and wheels and other such questionable edifices apart, the thrilling fact that all four of the year's digits happened to change at the end of 1999 provided an excuse for various literary fireworks; I wrote about a couple of fat rockets - Peter Forbes's Scanning the Century and Michael Schmidt's Harvill Book of Twentieth-Century Poetry in English in PNR 130. Here are some of the lesser explosives, sparklers and bangers as it were, and much the most sparkling of the bunch is Simon Rae's News that Stays News.

The simple reasons for its success might be pondered by other anthologists and, even more usefully, by their commissioning editors. Rae has set himself coherent, workable ground-rules and stuck to them: he includes a poem about 'what might loosely be termed the British experience' for each year from 1900 to 1999 but tries 'to avoid the bestknown and regularly reprinted poems'. This strategy effectively spikes any grumbles about what's missing, since the most obvious omissions are either over-familiar or insufficiently British or both. Like the Harvill anthology, News that Stays News opens with Hardy's 'The Darkling Thrush', but there the resemblance ends: this is more like a scrapbook or a snapshot-album, as welcoming to the odd as to the significant and relishing its chronological juxtapositions. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these come from the century's earliest years, a period too readily overshadowed by the imminent heavyweights of modernism. For instance, the young Frances Cornford's 'Autumn Morning at ...


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