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This review is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

CURSES, NOT BLESSINGS Tygers of Wrath: Poems of Hate, Anger and Invective, ed. X. J. Kennedy (University of Georgia Press) $15.00

Usefully separating 'a dull, sniveling, passive kind of hatred . . . that produces no poetry' from the robuster and more profoundly imagined antipathy which can indeed create, X. J. Kennedy in his introduction to this anthology takes issue with Donald Davie's statement, in Trying to Explain, that hatred is 'essentially inartistic'. Though he modestly says, 'I have not the ambition to offer an aesthetic for hatred in poetry, nor the competence to speak from a grounding in psychology', Kennedy does in fact plead for the convincing total quality of writing inspired not by love or admiration but by hatred or contempt, and his plea stands up well when it is backed up with examples of Irish hatred, of black hatred, of Scottish fly tings, or of sheer bloody-minded animosity. The introduction, with excellent brevity and wit, insists that the intensity of hatred need by no means be second to the intensity of love and is thus equally powerful as poetic inspiration, and at the same time stresses that this intensity is best transformed into effective poetry if it is clearly focussed. Of poems that fail to focus, Kennedy comments: 'All the reader can tell is that the poet, for reasons he never confides, would willingly blow up reader, himself, and the whole stinking universe, provided he could receive a grant to do it from the National Endowment for the Arts.'

If the introduction does its job well, the anthology proper is even better. From flippancies such ...


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