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

READING THE WORLD Charles Tomlinson, The Flood (Oxford) £3.95

In reading The Flood we adjust to possibilities: how we might 'read' the world in its flow, matching up consciousness to its 'text', until, in new attunement, there is a tide of mind starting to pulse side by side with the world's. It is arrival at a mirroring, the surprise of mutuality sprung from beneath conscious expectation, as when the watchers in 'Severnside' have vainly awaited a flood, their minds distracted by bare mud flats and thought of the future. The present suddenly upon us-'Here where a tide whose coming we had missed/Rode massed before us in the filled divide'-is the movement of the mind as it catches up with, and runs beside, the flow whose rising the verse has already taught it, underneath, to know: a discovery which is also a re-finding, or, as we see etymologically in 'Ritornello', a returning of word and world to each other, so that in quickened appositeness 'Sublime comes climbing from beneath the threshold'. This is not the ego's upsurge, not (according to 'Programme Note') 'The streambed's deep self-inspection,/But the purest water' where 'reflection' means the 'pooling' of what pulses separately yet grows precisely, even hugely, between the world and its reflective reader. With the poem 'Snow Signs', 'reflection' is more clearly a matter of inter-action as we measure that whole rising into view between the movement of the walkers and the snow-covered scene. Though 'too cursory reading . . . misses the fortuitous/Full variety a hillside spreads for us', the missing ...


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