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

THE DEATHLESS IDEOGRAM Lawrence Durrell, Collected Poems 1931-1974 (Faber) £9.00

This third edition of Lawrence Durrell's Collected Poems is not simply an updated version of its predecessor: unlike the editions of 1960 and 1968 it is intended as a 'definitive and comprehensive' collection of Durrell's published poetical work; and unlike those editions it presents its material chronologically by year of first publication, substituting for the poet's original attempt at 'the most easily readable form' an arrangement which charts the publishing history of the poems. Altogether more formal, more academic; but Durrell neatly sidesteps responsibility for the change in character, carefully referring in his short preface to an 'invitation' to produce an edition of this nature, and presenting his thanks to its editor, James Brigham, in the form of a disclaimer: the editing and arrangement, we are told, are entirely Brigham's work. Even Durrell's praise of the edition as 'exemplary' appears on close examination subtly evasive; and one can't help suspecting that certain reservations on the poet's part may preclude fuller endorsement.

It would be surprising, indeed, if there were no such reservations. The new editorial approach demands the inclusion of a considerable number of early poems which Durrell himself pointedly excluded from the two previous editions, remarking that he dated his poetic appearance from the publication, in 1943, of A Private Country; and it demands too the replacement of an authorially devised structure by a mechanical scheme fundamentally uninteresting to the poet. ('I can't remember now', he told Marc Alyn when asked about the publication date of ...


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