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This review is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.

IN THE STEPS OF THE MASTER Donald E. Stanford, Revolution and Convention in Modern Poetry (University of Delaware Press) n.p.

This is a polemical book; it argues with some urgency, even anger, for a particular kind of poetry and against other particular kinds of poetry. It makes value judgements, not hesistantly but with relish because its author sees this as the business of literary criticism. It judges famous poems and finds them wanting, and often the fault lies, we are told, in the poet's fundamental conception, or lack of conception, of the nature of poetry: it is in general no respecter of reputations. Five poets are discussed, all Americans - Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Robinson and Winters. Two of these wrote just such criticism as appears here-forceful, evaluative, often contemptuous, the play of emotion clearly visible beneath the movement of their prose. Stanford aligns himself with one of these two; he is fairly dismissive (ultimately) of Pound, and so we are left with one candidate as the author's mentor. Stanford writes as Paul to Yvor Winters' Christ.

In two of the essays, those on Robinson and Stevens, Stanford follows Winters' evaluations very closely, choosing largely the same poems to analyse as Winters does and making more or less the same judgements on them. True, he discusses more of Stevens' poems than Winters manages to, but his remarks are never difficult to foresee once one is aware of the Winters line on Stevens. Like Winters he prefers early Stevens to late Stevens, and like Winters he only really likes one late poem by Stevens - the same one ('The ...


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