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This review is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

ALL WHIMSY WERE THE ANTHOLOGISTS The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980, ed. D.J. Enright (Oxford University Press) £7.50
Soft Day, ed. Peter Fallon and Sean Golden (Univ. of Notre Dame) n.p.
Resistance, Exile and Love, ed. Nikos Spanias (Pella Publishing, N. Y.) n.p.
Women their World, ed. Eva Figes, Abigail Mozley, Dinah Livingstone (Platform Poets 16) £1.00
The Colour of the Weather, ed. Yann Lovelock (Menard Press) £5.00/£2.00
Text-Sound Texts, ed. R. Kostelanetz (Morrow Quill Books) $8.95 (U.S. dollars)

Though Stevie Smith's position at the opening of the Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse is merely the result of having been born before anyone else in the volume, her verses are a portent of what is to come. Her idiosyncratic brew of Ogden Nash plus tears is only the soup to an exhaustingly whimsical meal. There are poems here that adopt an other than wry attitude towards reality (they are mostly about God) but they seem disconcertingly rare. At times the book reads almost like an equivalent of nineteenth-century nonsense verse; as if Edward Lear had been called upon to edit a volume and come up with an anthology of poems by himself, Lewis Carroll, C. S. Calverley and (to show he could appreciate the higher things) Thomas Hood. But, one should add, we do not have whimsy for the sake of whimsy-we have it for the sake of literature. There is a quite inordinate number of poems about poetry and the poetry business. There are poems on the joys and sorrows of teaching poetry, giving readings, acting the poet and generally milking the literary life for all it will give, by Earle Birney, A. D. Hope, John Berryman, Gavin Ewart, Howard Nemerov, Philip Larkin, Dannie Abse, Anthony Hecht, Louis Simpson, Charles Tomlinson and Douglas Dunn. One knows that poets tend to be a self-obsessed crowd but this is ridiculous. The last poem of the book is Douglas Dunn's and neatly sums up the whole venture, as its subject ...


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