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

CONVICTION AND DOUBT Vernon Watkins, Selected Verse Translations (Enitharmon) £1.95
Stanley Moss, Skull of Adam (Anvil Press Poetry) £2.50
William Scammell, Yes and No (Peterloo Poets) £1.50

Like many other poets, Vernon Watkins had all sorts of reservations about the value of literary criticism. Not that he had any notions about poems being fragile flowers which could come to harm being rubbed and questioned in the lecture room (or critical review). Quite the reverse, he made the most stringent demands of a poem. It must succeed in terms of itself alone, or not at all. A good poem was to him a totally integrated whole, and what it said could only be fully conveyed in that form, in those words. To paraphrase or explicate was to distort and diminish. It was a view which inevitably led him to discourage discussion, and even performance of his own works, and to his being reluctant to discuss the works of others himself. So this volume of his verse translations is doubly interesting, both for the translations in themselves as poems, and for the light which they throw on what interested Watkins in the writings of others.

All the time that he was writing verse, Watkins also translated poems, from the classics, from French, German, Italian. The present volume is a selection of those translations, some published during his lifetime, others found among his papers after his death. His aim as a translator, as he made clear in a short essay included in this volume, was less to provide an accurate word for word rendering of particular poems, than to convey them completely, tone, texture, musicality and meaning, ...


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