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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

THE NATURAL AND THE TALENTED Michael Baldwin, King Horn (Routledge) £3.95
John Levett, Changing Sides (Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets) £3.00
Carol Rumens, Star Whisper (Secker & Warburg) £4.00

There's no gainsaying Michael Baldwin's gifts. King Horn, which comes trailing a sub-title dripping with local colour: 'Poems written at Montelieu in old Languedoc 1969-81', contains some fine, muscular description. The poet is capable, too, of a swift and lucid imaginative thought that can transform his subject-matter to fantastic, sometimes potently surrealistic, effect. But these boldly exploratory poems seldom reach any definite conclusion. Having plugged in, so to speak, to the primitive consciousness of the protean likeness of things, the poet seems to feel he can rest content. But like the universe in 'Taurean Dawn',


Nothing is yet fixed:
Among unhooked limbs, parted blebs,
The parcels of last night's carrion
Nothing comes to roost, not even leaves . . .


Not even poems, one is tempted to add. Baldwin's poetry lacks necessity. It doesn't sufficiently need to deliver its mythic goods. It will reward the patient reader with many incidental felicities, but finally, it communicates little more than a lively impression of the (undoubted) authenticity of the poet's creative impulse.

John Levett is a formal versifier of unusual accomplishment. He's also a talented poet whom one feels should get up and do something and then write about it - not in tranquil recollection, but in the heat of the uncreated event. His poems' somewhat mannered preoccupation with the 'introverted privacies of fear' and 'fear's drift into indifference' makes for glum and tenuous reading. When he succeeds, ...


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