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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

DRAWING THE LINE Geoffrey Grigson, Blessings, Kicks and Curses: A Critical Collection (Allison &Busby) £9.95
Geoffrey Grigson, The Private Art: A Poetry Note-Book (Allison & Busby) £9.95
Geoffrey Grigson, Collected Poems 1963-1980 (Allison & Busby) £9.95

There is little sense of finality about the event - a new collection published earlier this year, and unrepresented here, might be said to gesture already towards the next Collected Poems - but the simultaneous publication of these three volumes does provide us with the basis for a relatively full assessment of Geoffrey Grigson's strengths and limitations, both as poet and literary critic. These two aspects of his variform talent are not of course cleanly separable; but it is possible, while recognizing this, to register too a discrepancy between his critical and his poetic achievements.

'The blessings', notes the blurb on the wrapper of Blessings, Kicks and Curses, clearly seeking to invest the fact with some significance, 'are first in the title'. So they are; but the kicks and curses seem to occupy an unhealthily prominent position within the collection itself. Grigson's early predilection for the merciless and often downright savage exposure of mediocrity, stupidity and pretension in art, seems in some sense to have entrapped him: it is over thirty years since he acknowledged in his autobiography the futility of his ferocious tactics, suggesting at the same time that there had been something rather unwholesome about his youthful iconoclasm; yet the potentially salutary perception has not appreciably altered the emphasis of his criticism. The effects of his sniping are not wholly negative (witness, for example, the precision with which he locates in one particular image the perversity which informs so much of Ted Hughes's later work) ...


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