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This review is taken from PN Review 8, Volume 5 Number 4, July - September 1979.

RECENT AMERICAN POETRY Millions of Strange Shadows by Anthony Hecht, O.U.P., £2.50
This Body is Made of Camphor and Gopherwood by Robert Bly, drawings by Gendron Jensen, Harper & Row (New York), $7.95
The Snow Falls Upward: Collected Poems by Margaret Newlin, Ardis/Ann Arbor, $2.95
Collected Poems 1953-1977 by Ernest Sandeen, University of Notre Dame Press (Indiana)
Poems of the Two Worlds by Frederick Morgan, University of Illinois Press, $3.95
Absence of Unicorns, Presence of Lions by Michael Mott, Little, Brown and Company (Boston), $4.50

SINCE around 1960, when American poetry overall showed a shift from "cooked" to "raw", even some established pale-faces defecting to the redskin camp (in mind-events, which needn't entail literally leaving the academic campus), it has been rather unquestioningly assumed that there prevails what, in 1973 in his stimulating Thomas Hardy and British Poetry, Donald Davie termed a "breakdown in communication between the two English-speaking poetries" on either side of the Atlantic. Davie continued: "They haven't been on hearing terms-the American reader can't hear the British poet, neither his rhythms nor his tone of voice, and the British reader only pretends to hear the rhythms and tone of American poetry since William Carlos Williams."

I mistrust this. I do find that a large proportion of the American poetry that has in some sense taken Williams as mentor has hardly been enhanced as "communication" by this; but here I mean communication not just to my "ear", but to my mind, imagination, feelings. Hankering for a native alternative to English (and Eliotian) traditions, American poets concocted a pantheon of Whitman, Pound, Williams; as the most recently-living, Williams has been acknowledged as influence or exemplar by poets diverse as the Black Mountaineers and Robert Lowell; and certainly too much American poetry of the past twenty years has too self-consciously emerged, to paraphrase Dostoevsky on Gogol, from under Williams's red wheelbarrow. I'd allow that Williams's example might foster in other poets an openness to disparate experience, to material felt to be (though ...


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