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

THE CELTIC YOKE Hugh Maxton, Jubilee for Renegades (Dolmen), £3.60 pbk
Anne Peters, Rings of Green (Colin Smythe), £3.50 pbk
The Selected Paul Durcan, ed. Edna Longley (Blackstaff), £4.50 pbk

Reading the Irish poet Hugh Maxton's new collection, Jubilee for Renegades, is an unsettling experience. No misty Celtic twilights here, no pageantry of the picturesque. Not that Maxton's poems are bare of local flora and fauna: they have more than their fair share of tamarisk, fasciculi and fuchsia, observed and apprehended with more than usual exactness. But Maxton's language is shot through with such self-lacerating doubt and anxiety that the things so vividly named quiver and fade from view, overcast by a bleak metaphysical shadow. The concern with history, evident in his previous volume The Noise of the Fields, has now developed into an urgent, highly complex exploration of inter-related themes: time, love, privacy and politics, reality and language. Jubilee for Renegades is welcome not for the pleasures it brings (though they are plentiful) but for the intelligence and scrupulousness of its author which makes those pleasures earned at some cost.

George Berkeley is one of the presiding spirits of the volume. 'At Hardisty's Farm', a powerful evocation of a Yorkshire landscape, carries the epigraph: 'One great Cause of Miscarriage in Men's affairs is that they too much regard the Present . . . But the Grand Mistake is that we know not what we mean by we or selves or mind etc.' So, in Maxton's poetry, history is a continuous tragedy of mistaken certainties, illusions held as truths, moments wrongly seized. In his dramatic monologues, he re-creates the experience of particular historical moments: Irish peasants 'Gathering ...


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