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This review is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

A NATIVE OF THE PLACE Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney, edited and introduced by P. J. Kavanagh (Oxford) £12.00

Readers of this magazine were given a foretaste of this book in the 'Eleven Uncollected Poems' chosen by P. J. Kavanagh for PNR 29. As editor of the present volume, Kavanagh has drawn upon the Ivor Gurney Collection in Gloucester Library as well as on Gurney's two small volumes, Severn and Somme (1917) and War's Embers (1919), and the volumes edited respectively by Edmund Blunden in 1954 and by Leonard Clark in 1973. Blunden and Clark both helped to keep Gurney's name alive as a poet, but their collections are entirely superseded by this one, at once much larger and more discriminating. Kavanagh has omitted from the main text some of the poems included by the two earlier editors, but he has put these into an appendix, so that the reader can see where the difference lies. There is an enlightening passage in Kavanagh's introduction about the nature of Blunden's selection, here characterised, I think rightly, as 'eccentric'. 'He has chosen on the whole the wilder, stranger, later poems, omitting most of the more approachable ones and the simpler lyrics.' Blunden seems to have done this from a mistaken notion that this approach would be more likely to appeal to readers of the 1950s than a less tactical selection: 'rough power' was what he thought he was going for. For what the evidence is worth, I can remember being half attracted and half put off by the Blunden volume, and I am ashamed to say that Gurney does not ...


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