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This article is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

Turbulent Light John Montague

There has been a spate of anthologies recently, seeking to anticipate the twenty-first century's judgement of the twentieth, the literary version of a pre-emptive strike. One of the things they have in common is the omission of Kathleen Raine. It is as if she did not exist, as they certainly do not for her: she has never concerned herself with her place in any fleeting situation, but has always seen poetry in terms of the eternal verities.

When you call upon Kathleen, what strikes you is her serenity, that Yeatsian atmosphere of contemplation of life from a visionary standpoint. And yet one of the constants in her world is flux, change, sturm und drang, as the German Romantics say. It can be the typical modern intrusion of burglary:

 The burglar, professional agent of loss
Met me with bold gaze as he left the house
Carrying away my pearls and the cameo my son gave me...

 Or the sensation of loss in a bad dream:

... Last night, the one remaining tree
Outside my window, in a dream was falling:
In the morning, seeing twigs and branches moving
In the air, I only half believed my sight:
Kind world that gives back common space and time,
Respite from the boundless regions of dream.

 Or it can be the terrible maw of process, the destructive element, as in the turbulent ...


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