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

RESOLVING PARADOX J. F. Hendry, A World Alien (Borderline Press, 96 Halbeath Road, Dunfermline, Fife) £2.75

On its front cover A World Alien reproduces, without identification, the street plan of central Glasgow. The river Clyde, bisecting the urban grid, is bridged and bordered by it. The configuration of reciprocal structures is immediately familiar, even if unrecognised, as the type of the centre, now decayed, of a great city. This is the place to which the poet has returned from post-war employments in Europe and North America; retired from professional life his poetic career is gathered and renewed from home. The ambiguity of the title ranges with expressive and destructive power throughout the book, reaching further to confront what must be becoming a familiar cultural type, which a younger generation of poets, preoccupied with the relation of its discourse to social life, might consider exemplary: the career in which the salaried lifespan figures as a hiatus, an unaccountable lapse which threatens to overwhelm the poet in retirement with the indignities of premature historic status. Neither past nor present affords a familiar world, and the poet's estrangement invests him with a rootless singularity. To characterise Hendry in terms of such a type, however, and not rehearse the outline of his career as it reaches back to the late 1930s (privileged treatment which with some courage A World Alien does not solicit) would place too close a constraint around the diagnostic ambiguities implied by the title of this modest collection of verses which spans upwards of thirty years. Self-appraisal is not primary here, although the passage of time ...


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