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

THE MIRACLE CURE John Ash, The Bed & other poems (Oasis Books) £1.80

John Ash introduces this collection with a quotation from Wallace Stevens. He assumes our familiarity with Trakl, with Debussy's opera, with Blaise Cendrars, with 12-note music ('Arnold/Anton and Alban!'). In his poem 'Orchestral Manoeuvres (in the dark)' he deals, gaily, casually, with this very problem of 'modernity'. The 'invisible child' of art 'is taking/a long time to die,-/and it needn't happen!/the miracle cure was discovered/half a century ago.' Why do we fear the artists of today-the only ones who can open up for us the significance of contemporary things?

Reading these fine poems, you are not locked in England. The landscape is the world, particularly perhaps all Europe-the Europe of the films we know, the literature we've absorbed, the trains we've taken past lakes and pine-forests, the cities we've wandered through together or alone. This is a poetry that presupposes width of awareness, gives us the same ambivalent experience as when we see a play by Chekhov in translation-we are privileged to share an alien frustration, an alien melancholy, to belong to a tradition that is validly ours by proxy. 'We have to love the past/it is our invention' ('The Rain'). Each reference is there for us to catch, the dependence on what we should be familiar with, but the language-precise, ironic, loving-is ours and of our time, 'something that would throw a cool light, stopping short/of indifference' ('The Rain').

The two autobiographies of the imagination (the title poem and 'Glowing Embers: Paraphrases and Fictions' ...


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