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

POETIC JUSTICE George Buchanan, Possible Being (Carcanet) £3.95

Possible Being is George Buchanan's fifth collection of poems, and his third for Carcanet. The first two-Bodily Responses (1958) and Conversations with Strangers (1961)-were published by the admirable little press Gaberbocchus, into whose adventurous list his idiom fitted well. The press that published Kurt Schwitters in England was no doubt as congenial to him as had been the actual milieu of the exiled European modernists-Gabo, Moholy-Nagy-in the England of the 1930s. He was not overtly experimental, but his poems shared their chastened Utopianism: 'Where we are the great fountains rise./To be at home is our creed, not, as formerly, the sickness of the world.' Visions of the future required not the rhetoric of a manifesto, but a muted, conditional tone: 'If poetic justice should rule, the poem's requirements/May be what society requires. The next line may be the next line.' Such poems depended implicitly on the subtle stresses of the speaking voice (Where we are . . . that sickness . . . the next line), and Buchanan was ready to define his mode of disengagement in a 'Footnote' to the second collection: 'It corresponds to the not over-excited talking which is needed by the voice. We say only what has to be said, but not too earnestly, as if it hardly concerned us-the way a cat pretends not to notice the mouse within reach of its paw.'

Possible Being, coming two decades later, encloses within it an even larger volume of time past, since Buchanan has ...


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