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This review is taken from PN Review 23, Volume 8 Number 3, January - February 1982.

HONEY IN THE MOUTH Carlos Drummond de Andrade, The Minus Sign, translated from the Portuguese by Virginia de Araujo (Carcanet) £3.95

Along with the poetry that offers itself as the product of an immense appetite for heterogeneous reality, there is another poetry, just as representative of our time, which presents itself as the product of abnegations and exclusions. The first sort of poetry saves itself from sprawling only when a driving energy sustains it through sounded rhythms; the second sort, halting and hesitant, succeeds when it convinces us that what it gives in the end is rock-hard, irreducible. The one sort of poetry, and of poet, appears the polar opposite of the other; but in fact, if we are at all sophisticated, we know that these poetries are two faces of the one coin. For what is usefully called 'anti-rhetoric' is itself a kind of rhetoric, just as that less excusable thing called 'anti-poetry' is (as everyone knows) only a special kind of poetry. The rip-roaring expansive and inclusive poet expects us to admire him (as we can, sometimes) for the boldness with which he trusts himself to the torrent of his feeling that whirls him past hesitations and niceties; the minimalist poet asks us to admire him (as we can, sometimes) for the rigour with which he resists the distractions that the other delights in.

Is there in circulation among us any poetry that is not thus two-faced? Any poetry that does not depend, for its effect upon us, on the implicit presence of its shadowy opposite? Sometimes one thinks such a coin has come to hand: ...


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