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This review is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

INTERNATIONAL POETRY? Contemporary Swedish Poetry, tr. John Matthias and G. Printz-Pahlson (Anvil Press) £3.95
A New Book of South African Verse in English, eds. Guy Butler and Chris Mann (Oxford University Press) £8.95
The Penguin Book of Turkish Verse, eds. Nermin Menemen-cioglu with Fahir Iz (Penguin Books) £2.95

There is an internationalism of modern poetry as there is an internationalism of modern architecture and modern clothes, and naturally it is the lowest common denominator that prevails. We can sit in our new tatty suits in a new dreary high-rise block of flats reading the newest local and miserable dilution of Neruda almost anywhere in the world. It is a sad prospect from these blocks of flats-and though individual poems in these three anthologies mitigate it, they stand out like desolate landmarks-a Seljuk mosque among the concrete offices, a pine forest glimpsed from the free-way-in an alien environment. Saddest of all are those artefacts that try desperately to combine the 'modern' (international junk) and the 'traditional' (local colour for the tourists)-what one might call Hilton-lobby art, where the hookah or the Acropolis in the ghastly wall mosaic is the only way of telling whether you are in Istanbul or Athens.

The modern international style seems almost to have swallowed Swedish verse whole if Contemporary Swedish Poetry is anything to go by. Goran Printz-Pahlson remarks in his introduction that, 'Shifting and fashionable attitudinising, journalistic glibness and media-oriented trendiness have an undeniable presence in post-war Swedish poetry.' You can say that again. The poems show a wary eye cocked for international trends and names (Frantz Fanon and Allende to demonstrate our political respectability, Berryman, Snyder and Bly to demonstrate our literary awareness, Lorca and Celan to demonstrate both-and there are Marxist poems, surrealist poems, Marxist-surrealist poems, and, yes, ...


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