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This review is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

POETS OF SLENDER MEANS IAN HAMILTON, Collected Poems. Edited with an introduction by Alan Jenkins (Faber) £12.99
DESMOND GRAHAM, The Green Parakeet (Flambard) £7.50

Ian Hamilton’s Collected Poems appear eight years after his death, edited by Alan Jenkins with an introduction, notes on the poems and appendices from articles and comments by Ian Hamilton on his own work. The twenty-three poems from Poetry Introduction 1 have thus been published with revisions five times by Faber since 1969 and the additional ten poems added for Hamilton’s subsequent first collection, The Visit, four times. As these thirty- three poems make up the bulk of an extremely slender oeuvre on which Hamilton’s reputation as a poet rests, the frequent republication argues an abiding faith in the significance of his poetry by his publisher. Alan Jenkins quotes Hugo Williams, ‘it would be hard to exaggerate the influence Ian had on the way poetry was written in the Seventies’, and indeed he wrote famously sharp reviews of Ted Hughes’s Crow and Robert Lowell’s Notebook. However, I doubt if even Hugo Williams can detect the influence of his poetry in Mercian Hymns, Wintering Out, North, The School of Eloquence, In The Stopping Train, The Snow Party, Correspondences, Implements in Their Places, The Cost of Seriousness, Jack Straw’s Castle or Tenebrae, to name some of the more influential collections of that decade.

I recall the effect that The Visit had when I was beginning to write poems whose diction was not stranded somewhere between Swinburne and The Waste Land. I was fascinated by Hamilton’s statement in the Poetry Book Society Supplement of 1970 that his poems were ‘dramatic ...


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