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

BETA-PLUS P. R. King, Nine Contemporary Poets: A Critical Introduction (Methuen) £3.50

In his Preface, P. R. King states his purpose as follows: 'If this book helps in some small part to encourage readers to make their own assessment of these poets or, more importantly, encourages them to read or reread the poetry, I shall consider my task worthwhile. 'That is awkwardly put; but let me say straight away that if Nine Contemporary Poets does have that effect, then my reservations about the book won't matter. However, P. R. King is tautologically described as 'Lecturer in Education at Loughborough University' (which I assume means that he teaches teachers) and his book comes in Methuen's established and often excellent University Paperbacks series: it's likely, therefore, that what he has to say will filter through to more than a few classrooms, essays, exam answers and so on. His book may well appear to possess more authority than its author modestly claims for it, and it must be judged accordingly.

It is, for a start, mistitled. It should be called Six Contemporary Poets: A Critical Introduction, since the last three of the nine (Douglas Dunn, Tom Paulin, Paul Mills) aren't critically introduced: they introduce themselves, in Paulin's case by way of an interview, in the other two cases by lengthy written statements presented without authorial interruption. The inclusion of these three self-introductions is baffling since King claims in his Preface that he would have liked to have dealt with the work of Peter Porter and R. S. Thomas 'if space had permitted'. ...

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