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

QUAM TE MEMOREM Edith Sitwell, Collected Poems (Macmillan) £5.95-pb

The very fact is interesting that Edith Sitwell's Collected Poems should appear for review in 1982, she must be low down at the moment in a trough of reputation, the post-mortal depression that not all writers survive. Her collected poems really date from 1957, and the introduction, 'Some Notes on my own poetry', substantially from her Selected Poems of 1936. What has appeared now is a paperback edition. To me it was useful, because I have never seen all these poems since about 1958. Before that I used to like some of her poems very much, and think her underestimated, but whether it was the scorn of poets and critics of my own generation, or the terrible embarrassment of her public image, or the long boring poems of her late phase, I stopped talking or thinking much about her in the early 1960s.

Why did she seem so indefensible? People took sides about her more violently than one could now easily imagine. Partly it was the publicity, partly annoyance at her baroque plumage, her rages and her crazes. But liking or disliking the poetry itself had no consequences, because she was alone. Her theories about the technique and language of poetry were really very interesting, although her vocabulary for discussing these questions was sometimes annoying and subjective. What is quite untrue is the claim made on the cover of this unhappy edition that she and her brothers 'were at the forefront of London's literary life' throughout the ...


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