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

A HOUSE LESS OWNED Michael Hamburger, Variations (Carcanet) £2.95

One method of dealing with life and with poetry is to see how much one can get rid of; images of discarding, of laying bare, of finally letting the whole thing go and arriving somewhere so empty it would allow one to see what the whole jumble had meant, being ones which will keep recurring in any serious mind, and could be one definition of puritanism. There is also an attitude complementing this which says that the process of life will do that anyway and no technique of disposal is required; one's feet will echo on the bare floorboards of the desolate house and poetry would be better off as a method of keeping at least one room decently carpeted with plenty of pictures on the walls, since the definition of a house is of something furnished. There are, naturally, lots of other ways of thinking about life and poetry, and there is no guarantee that we are wise to think of the two together for it implies that poetry is the truth about life. Michael Hamburger, however, clearly does see poetry as giving us that truth, and the progress of his own poetry seems to be one of seeing how much can be discarded. The first section of this book opens with images of the profusion of the natural and civilized worlds from which one is naturally allowed but a restricted choice, moves into images of the effort to acquire more which is seen as the basic human ...


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