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This review is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.

DARK DARK DARK The Poems of Stanley Kunitz 1928-1978 (Seeker) £6.50
Michael Anania, Riversongs (University of Illinois Press) $3.95

If, for cultural reasons I must here neglect to explore, the American poetic landscape has during the past twenty years become dismayingly obscured with the demented snailtracks of talentless ego-trippers, theorybound excrescences more assiduously blueprinted, and other eyesores, the number of Americans writing real poetry with perception, sensitivity and lucid skill remains reassuringly constant, if in the nature of things a diminishing proportion of the whole scene. Stanley Kunitz is of course decidedly among the genuine, and his Collected offers five decades of the work of a sparing intelligent poet whose thematic range is broad and craftsmanly competence almost unfaltering. His career has brought him distinctions and honours listed on his bookjacket; Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and so forth. However, as Eliot reminds us, '. . . dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,/. . . The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters'; and I fear Kunitz will be among the first of these latter to get there, not far in the wake of the hosts of poetic no-hopers to whom he is so absolutely superior. For his poetry overall curiously disappoints the expectations raised by his evident abilities and seriousness; is so persistently less than the sum of Kunitz's assured literary parts, that reviewing it becomes largely a matter of defining the missing X-factor which might have transfigured work which remains merely competent, briefly interesting, finally unmemorable.

Kunitz tells us his volume ...


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