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This article is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

Sisson's Poetry and his Essays Rachel Gould

In an essay about the poet Geoffrey Hill, Sisson apologizes for talking about Hill's prose-style by saying that '. . . no one tears himself apart entirely into prose and verse, but the connection is indirect' (Collected Essays, 468). Michael Schmidt in his Introduction to these essays draws attention to the close relationship, as he sees it, between Sisson's own poems and prose, and to the way in which the two are complementary. That there is a connection between essays and poems would be obvious to someone who had only cursorily glanced at the titles of each: 'Charles Maurras and the Idea of The Patriot King' (essay), 'Maurras, Young and Old' (poem); 'The Civil Service' (essay), 'On a Civil Servant' (poem); 'An Essay on Identity' (one of the 'Sevenoaks Essays'), 'An Essay on God and Man' (poem). One could go on. There is considerable overlap in subject matter, or, to put it in another way, Sisson does not particularly distinguish between subject-matter fit for prose, and that fit for poetry. But the exact nature of the relationship is, I think, more difficult to establish. If the subjects are not distinct, the treatment almost always is. Schmidt obviously feels no great tension between what Sisson is saying in his prose and what he says in his poems. But - despite the relationship - I have felt a startling disparity in effect between Sisson's prose and poetry, and want to establish why that should be.

I read Sisson's poetry ...

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