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This item is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

Letters from P.J Kavanagh, Kris Long, David Jesson-Dibley
Sir: In Mr Jem Poster's otherwise favourable review of Geoffrey Grigson's Blessings, Kicks and Curses (PNR 33) he accuses him of 'laxity', of 'evasion of critical responsibility', of 'withholding any significant analytical elucidation'. Leaving aside for the moment the possibility that 'analytical elucidation' is something we can have too much of, the criticism of Grigson's approach to Ivor Gurney is off the mark. He does indeed say that Gurney was called by his early editor 'Georgian'-which he defines as 'a timeserving timidity and thinness of diction'-and then goes on to say 'this isn't Georgian utterance: (quotation). Nor is: (quotation) or (quotation).' This is what Mr Poster finds unsatisfactory, Grigson allowing the poet to make his point for him. The quotations are subtly chosen; they could be mistaken for 'Georgian' by a careless reader, indeed, it is Grigson's point that they had been, whereas the quotations are neither 'timid' nor 'thin'. Grigson is trusting the intelligence of the reader to perceive this. It is hard to see how this method constitutes 'evasion'. Instead of putting a smokescreen of words, his words, between the poem and the reader, he is making clear his own judgement and enabling the reader to judge this judgement for himself, a dangerous proceeding.

It might be worth mentioning here that Gurney himself was less than enthusiastic of elucidation and analysis. He says that for him, for too long, poetry was a thing 'misted with fear and explaining notes'.
Elkstone, nr Cheltenham P.J. KAVANAG


Sir: It's good that there's now a plaque on the House of St Casimir ('News & Notes', PNR 33). But in what way were Norwid's models French? Does this refer just to the claim that his Vade Mecum was a reply to Les Fleurs du Mal-in a diametrically opposed style? Or have I been missing something in French poetry?

As Norwid hasn't yet been given his rightful place in world literature, it might be an idea to add the odd reference, say to Miłosz's chapter in The History of Polish Literature and perhaps Pietrkiewicz in The Other Side of Silence (and to Miłosz on Alpha the Moralist under Andrzejewski!).

But Iłłakowiczowna-why pass over the last seventy years of her life?-her work for Pilsudski in the Ministry of War, her evacuation to Cluj/Kolozsvar, where she survived by giving language lessons-to both Romanians and Hungarians (she later translated Aprily as well as Blaga and Bacovia). And I would say that she remains a poet to be read in selection.
Bracknell, Berks. KRIS LONG


Sir: In his letter to J. H. Reynolds, September 1819, Keats commends Thomas Chatterton's use of 'genuine English idiom in English words' and his avoidance of 'French idiom' and 'particles like Chaucer'. Resolving himself to reject 'Miltonic inversions', Keats concludes that 'English ought to be kept up'. This should be done, it would seem, by refinement and
omission rather than by embellishment and addition.

If that were to be so, I suspect that Keats would have baulked at and quipped about the 'publishity' of Christopher Middleton's Notes (PNR 32) that provide the English Language with, or extend the lives of, such coinages as 'hyper-reflexivity', 'volatility', 'intermetaphoricity' and 'liminality'. I doubt if he would have found a place for these 'ity-bits' except to play with in Keatsian rodomontade.

However, he would have found Middleton's 'Ideas About Voice in Poetry' interesting for sure, especially as they are stimulated in some measure by a reading of Keats's own verse. I wonder, though, if he would be puzzled, as I am, by Middleton's postulated answer to the riddle: who speaks the last two lines of Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'? 'Both;' he suggests, 'but constraints of grammar and punctuation required the duet to sound like a solo'.

Read from the page or spoken accurarately from memory, the grammar conveys ambiguity of sense. Read from the page, the ambiguity is partially resolved in the published version of 1820, where the motto is detached by inverted commas from the rest of the sentence. As 'constraints of punctuation' can those inverted commas be conveyed in speech? Is it not the absence of constraint of punctuation that makes what may be read as a 'duet'-a dialogue-duet-'sound like a solo'?

If by 'duet' Middleton is suggesting that the Urn-voice and the Keats-voice are speaking in unison, that sense cannot be conveyed, of course, in recitation. But if Keats intended that sense, why did he pen for the eye to read, 'a friend to man, to whom thou say'st'?

This item is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

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