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

HISTORY OF A VOICE Patricia Beer, Selected Poems (Hutchinson) £5.95

In a Radio 3 talk reproduced in Best of the Poetry Year 6 (ed. Dannie Abse, Robson Books, 1979), Patricia Beer makes clear her conviction that 'ideally there must be a connection that approaches identification between the voice of the poet when writing poetry and his natural speaking voice-a connection not so much of vocabulary and content as of rhythm, pitch and pronunciation. When the poet has a regional accent, as I have, this is particularly true.' Her own Selected Poems, which includes work from five collections, the first of them published in 1959, as well as seventeen new poems, bears this out admirably. They are evidence not only of an increasing clarification of themes but, inseparably, of a poet training and exploiting to great effect a highly individual voice: and the way in which the poems move forward and develop is an important source of energy as well as a specific point of interest. A Selected Poems can also reveal clearly a poet's recurrent themes: for instance, I was struck here by the number of poems linking water with death and, sometimes, salvation, from the early 'The Flood', to poems like 'The Baptism', 'Arms' and, in a different way, those about a water diviner in 'Driving West'. The eight poems included here from Ms Beer's first two collections, Loss of the Magyar (1959) and The Survivors (1963), also establish the poet's preoccupation with the eerie and with death-and they do so in a tone which is clear, natural ...


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