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This review is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

INTIMATIONS C. B. Cox, Every Common Sight (London Magazine Editions) £3.00

In his 1974 study of Joseph Conrad, The Modern Imagination, C. B. Cox writes: 'The symbolist tends to withdraw into the self, where he feeds upon the unrealities of the consciousness in which he is imprisoned. Conrad shares such nightmares, but his experiences as a seaman supplied him with a foreground of immediate sensations in which his imagination delighted. His novels are full of colours and sounds, of people and places, whose concrete vitality works against the depression endemic in his mode of vision.'

Cox's devotion to Conrad has something to do with a temperamental affinity, a cognate darkness; and when Cox writes poems his subjects generally have that 'concrete vitality' that- while it works against the darker, formless impulses-manages at once to communicate them, generally as an apprehension of ephemerality which heightens the 'common sight'.

The title of this first collection is from Wordsworth's ode. But Cox's 'common sights' are not 'apparelled in celestial light'- they are full of their own particular illumination (or dark) and are clearly 'objective' in nature, the poetic act being one of recollection, organisation, evocation rather than of projection or invention. The language the poet uses is careful, phrased: in many of the poems he seems to be piecing together a memory as it recurs and sharpens into significance, and he has the tact to leave that significance latent, unmoralized. Most of the poems begin with a short phrase which indicates a scene: 'A Grimsby cinema', 'Harvest Festival at ...


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