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This review is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

SIMPLE GIFTS James Schuyler, The Morning of the Poem (Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) £5.50
Mary Oppen, Poems & Transpositions (A Montemora Supplement; Montemora Foundation, New York) S3.00
Jean Valentine, The Messenger (Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) £4.95
Robert Dana, In a Fugitive Season (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press) S7.95

Out of a dozen new volumes of poems from the United States it was, unfortunately, a fairly undemanding task to identify those few which had been worth reading. Many young poets from the States who have been through University or College creative writing courses are able to turn out competently crafted and sophisticated-seeming poems by the knitted kilometre. Whatever is missing-and it is probably deeper experience of great literature as much as more experience of life outside literature-there is clearly some thing which pressurizes efficient craft into genuine art. Perhaps the missing element is unteachable, or unlearnable except by those who have that essential grace, the born gift. As James Schuyler remarks in his latest book:


Creative Writing has never
been my trip though I understand
the fun of teaching someone
something fun to do although most people
simply have not got the gift
and where's the point? ('Dining Out with Doug and Frank')


Schuyler's collection is surprisingly good. It is no surprise, of course, that Schuyler can write direct and moving poetry. What is striking here is the sureness and consistency of the achievement. He has ditched all the wilful obfuscations and other New York School parlour tricks which were practised even in The Home Book (the selection from his prose and poems which appeared as recently as 1977). Schuyler's sad, funny, and frank accounts of homosexual affairs, his reflections on middle-age and the deaths ...


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