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

IN EXTENSO William Stafford, Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (Harper & Row) $7.25-pb.
J. H. Prynne, Poems (Agneau 2, DS, The Book Shop, 11 Lambs Conduit Passage, London WC1R 4RH) £12.00, £7.50-pb
Adrian Mitchell, For Beauty Douglas: Collected Poems (Allison & Busby) £8.95, £4.95-pb
Iain Crichton Smith, Selected Poems 1955-1980 (MacDonald Publishers, Edgefield Road, Loanhead, Midlothian) £8.95, £4.95-pb

William Stafford is the first poet in the Penguin Contemporary American Poetry edited by Donald Hall, and is only known to me, and perhaps to most people reading this, as such. First poets in anthologies tend to get read with attention, even if their prominent position depends solely upon accident, and I can certainly remember reading the six poems there some eighteen years ago, and also feeling that there was some significance in his leading position despite the obvious fact that the reason was only one of age, Stafford having been born in 1914 although his first volume had not appeared until 1960. Presumably this was because Hall's anthology was an attempt to widen the official concept of the modern American poetic tradition so that the Black Mountain and other related poets would fit decently inside it, and Stafford seemed to be a suitable compromise poet with which to open so catholic an anthology. The subject matter of his poems was of the great open spaces, eternal realities kind, and the verse was, although not projective, certainly not Wilbur regularity:


Traveling through the dark I find a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.


A harsh reader might claim this was not verse at all, and point at the faux-naif vocabulary and syntax with disapproval, ...


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