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

COLLECTED, SELECTED, NEW Ronald Duncan, Collected Poems (Heinemann/Quixote Press)
P. J. Kavanagh, Selected Poems (Chatto)
John Hewitt, The Selected Poems (Blackstaff)
John Hewitt, Mosaic (Blackstaff)

I prefer books of new poems, in general, to Collected or Selected volumes. I find that there is something a little too safe about the considered presentation of a life's work, and conversely that there is something dangerous and exciting about the mixture of vanity, charm, wrong decisions and talent in most collections of new work.

Having said that, I had better note that the new poems on offer here are by John Hewitt, which opens up another dimension, that of the New Collection by The Grand Old Man, which can be either a cause for celebration or a case for voluntary redundancy. I am glad to say that Mosaic is a cause for celebration.

I am stepping out of sequence, though: I want to go from thick to thin, so I will begin with Ronald Duncan, striding across the cover of his Collected Poems, looking like Robert Mitchum's More Exhausted Brother. The book covers the period from 1928 to 1979, and some of the early poems are really good. 'The Panther', for instance, from 1936, had me rocking on my heels with its lines 'Lick lap and painful eye/crouched panther drinking my shadow down/his sides swell with each swallow./ Till the insidious dog day/yapped and my panther slunk away.' Unfortunately, in 1978, Duncan can write: 'You want to know what love is? I will tell you/it is a triangle; one side is anxiety; the second is jealousy/the third is grief. That is what love ...


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