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This review is taken from PN Review 27, Volume 9 Number 1, September - October 1982.

A PLACE OF BIRTH Adrian Stokes, With All the Views, Collected Poems, ed. Peter Robinson (Carcanet) £8.95

As their title implies, the binding theme of Stokes's collected poems is space. Nor is the assertion contradicted by the emphasis Adrian Stokes laid throughout his aesthetic writings on certain qualities of objects. In his introduction to With All the Views, Peter Robinson argues that the one hundred and sixty or so poems which Stokes wrote between 1968 and his death in 1972 'consummate' his life's work. They do not simply reiterate established positions, they add a new dimension. Our own stability goes hand in hand with the stability of objects, Stokes once wrote. Looking back, he could also acknowledge their (and our) dependence on intervening, affectionate space. 'Art' is now defined, in 'Birthday Poem', as 'man's history of himself in space'.

The psychoanalytical impulse underlying Stokes's aesthetic has been outlined elsewhere- notably in the contributions to PNR 15. The question is whether the poems attain to that 'wholeness' which, in Stokes's view, was the hallmark of a satisfactory work of art. Do they lose force when detached from the larger body of his prose? Do they create a space of their own? The answer appears to be that, if anything, there are occasions when their style lends the poems an excessive roundness and separateness.

In his PNR article Richard Read demonstrated Stokes's shifting attitude towards two rival creative modes: the 'modelling' and the 'carving'. Stokes grew to appreciate that the carving mode, although it preserved the integrity and wholeness of the material, contained the ...


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