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

For a Materialist Poetics Donald Wesling


[In printing Donald Wesling's essay, the General Editor does not associate himself with Donald Wesling's readings of the Sisson and Tredell reviews to which he alludes and can confirm that there was no collusion between the two reviewers.]


I
IN 1980, I published with the University of California Press a book titled The Chances of Rhyme: Device and Modernity. Reviews of the book in the United States were some favorable, some full of sharp strictures. The two reviews I've seen from England, the one in the Times Literary Supplement by C. H. Sisson and the one in PNR 24 by Nicolas Tredell, were both negative. Mr Tredell has gone further even than C. H. Sisson, to say that I am an idiot who 'lacks much sense of Western culture-or indeed of any culture at all'. Readers of my book and of the remarks to follow here will have to judge for themselves whether or not such attacks are fair. Reading the two reviews, I have been led to speculate about the reasons for dramatic reactions to my work from people associated with PNR. The following thoughts on some historical and structural components of poetics are advanced in order to touch the same raw nerve at PNR. Apparently I am on to something. To exploit the differences between PNR's nationalist and idealist views and my own, I intend to be hortatory, apodictic.

Consider, then, two premises: 1) poets and poems are ...


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