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This review is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

HIGH TIME Donald Davie, In The Stopping Train and Other Poems (Carcanet) £2.00.

Donald Davie's last collection The Shires (1974) was written off by most critics as light (even trite) relief after the publication of the Collected Poems two years earlier. But it may be that Davie himself would regard the book as an important stage in his development, promising a method whereby the geographical preoccupations of Charles Olson and Ed Dorn can be united with the anecdotal manner of Lowell's Notebook (Davie's criticism in the late '60s and early '70s constantly reverts to these figures). The method is certainly in evidence in his latest collection: five shires are revisited and there are several other poems which combine tributes to artists, friends and family with celebrations of place. "Devonshire", like the poem of that title in The Shires and the much earlier "Among Artisans' Houses", ponders (through the mouth of a Mrs John) whether the Welfare State rebuilding of Plymouth wasn't more devastating than the Second World War bombing of it. "Staffordshire" expresses Davie's by now familiar complaint about critical neglect of Charles Tomlinson: "Your love of our country has not been returned, and won't be." "The Fountain of Arethusa", one of three poems about Sicily, depicts the young Davie already a master of language and place:


   In a parlour-game,
   Required to name
Mountains beginning with A,
   Proudly, aged ten,
   I pronounced it then:
The Akrokeraunian Mountains!


The dangers of such a method are easy to see: topography may ...


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