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

AMBAGIOUS BARAGOUIN Christopher Reid, Pea Soup (Oxford) £4.50

The self-conscious posing in this book begins with its title and the epigraph (a prose poem by Baudelaire which contains the word soupe'), proceeds through lexical exoticism ('haruspication', 'gibus', 'baragouin', 'pinguid', 'ambagious') and quaint titling of poems (on the one hand 'Logodaedalus', 'Bathos' or 'Zeugma', on the other 'Uncle Wally Remembers Africa', 'A Parable of Geometric Progression' or 'A Metaphysical Outrage')and fetches up in statements such as 'everything was bogus'('Aquarius') or 'the galaxy reads like a rebus' ('The Ambassador'). In other words, we are still in the world of Arcadia, Christopher Reid's first volume, a world 'ruled by improbable fictions' ('Big Ideas with Loose Connections') in which it is necessary to preserve one's sanity by admiring 'the games/that other objects play' ('Patience'). In that volume the pose was defined once and for all by the tone of the drawling comment, 'Very Bauhaus!' ('Our Commune'). In Pea Soup, poetry continues to be viewed primarily as preludes to whatever next (as 'Fete Champêtre' would have it). Artists must no longer be the acolytes of high seriousness; today they are guests at a cocktail party.

I find this both good and bad. I agree with those critics who thought Arcadia exciting, and I agree that that poetic which Craig Raine has developed, which Christopher Reid has seconded, and which Simon Rae and other imitators have tried to debase, represents a useful (and enjoyable) renewal of possibilities open
to the image-maker. It is noticeable, however, that Craig Raine has widened ...


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