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

LACHRYMAE RERUM Lawrence Sail, The Kingdom of Atlas (Seeker) £3.25

The trouble with Lawrence Sail is that he doesn't shout. How can a poet of intelligence, restraint, craft and discretion make his voice heard above the more clamorous competition? He is the kind of poet for whose work there will never be a fashion-too varied in concern and device, it will never catch the ear of a public only to be awakened by insistent strumming on one string. His notation of visual imagery, for instance, is every bit as surprising as that of the recently-founded Martian school (a school which has enrolled an alarming number of younger pupils since its prospectus was issued by distinguished Oxford academics). There is daring in the poet's description of the inmates of an institute for handicapped children: 'Brittle as the steel/which props them, they are/true monsters of love'; while the fall of snow envisaged as 'beaded curtains' should satisfy any reader whose taste is for novelty of perception furnished by unexpected metaphor. Lawrence Sail certainly has the price of a ticket to Mars, not to mention enough loose change to cover the cost of a postcard home. In his poetry, though, the metaphoric alertness is neither an end in itself nor a strategy to secure the attention of the somnolent and jaded. It takes its place, as it should, among the techniques at the service of a poetry which keeps its eye steadily on its object.

It is perhaps a little unfair to begin a discussion of Lawrence Sail's new collection ...


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