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This review is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

PEERING THROUGH THE MURK New Poetry 6: An Arts Council Anthology, ed. Ted Hughes (Hutchinson) £5.95
Over the Bridge, ed. John Loveday (Puffin Books) 95p.

The blurb of the latest Arts Council anthology tells us that the editor Ted Hughes read 'over 4,000 poems' to arrive at this selection of one poem each by 135 poets. I seem to remember that he also went through upwards of 5,000 poems for the Arvon Foundation Poetry Competition. As it's not in the nature of things that 9,000-or even 90-good poems get written in a year, spare a thought for an exhausted editor. Of the 135 poems I counted 13, or slightly less than one in ten, that seemed to me to have something to recommend them-almost all of them by poets over the age of fifty. If this seems a disappointingly low percentage it may well not be the editor's fault-after all, he had to select from what was offered.

The stylistic trait that turned me away from more poems than I care to count is best described as linguistic murk-a murk that is perhaps symptomatic of a simple misconception as to the nature of poetry. Poetry tends to be about things that matter immensely to us but which we cannot understand-love and death for example. The poet talks about and tries to apprehend the mysteries that edge our lives. But this is a very different thing from the invention of factitious mystery as a poetic strategy. The good poet wants something inapprehensible to come clear-he is trying to make sense of the world ; the bad poet cannot really see the mystery at ...


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