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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

ROUGH EDGES Sylvia Townsend Warner, Collected Poems, edited with an introduction by Claire Harman (Carcanet) £9.95

Sylvia Townsend Warner was well served by her publishers. Chatto & Windus invariably brought out her books in handsome editions; and now Carcanet have not only given this one an austere, appropriate dust-wrapper, but have also included in it the astringent talk on 'Women as Writers' which she delivered to the Royal Society of Arts in 1959. Moreover, Claire Harman's introduction is exact, without straining to be definitive; there are notes and dates where needed or available, and a bibliography whose only serious omission is the book on Somerset which the author wrote for Paul Elek in 1949. All in all this is an essential purchase for her admirers, for even if they already possess the earlier collections of her poems, more than a quarter of those in this one have not appeared in book form previously, and are among her very best.

Those in The Espalier (1925) and Time Importuned (1929) are formal, rhymed, often lyrical, occasionally quirky. A stimulating mixture of the mannered, the pastoral and the blunt, they owe a good deal to the author's friend, T. F. Powys; indeed, as the editor observes, it is almost as though Sylvia Townsend Warner were producing on his behalf the poems he never wrote himself. This early work may be read alongside that of such contemporary women poets as Ruth Pitter or V. Sackville-West: in connection with the latter one notes a shared preference of rough edges over smooth, and a gnarled, angular vocabulary with, on ...


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