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This review is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

LAURA RIDING Selected Poems: in Five Sets by Laura Riding, (Faber & Faber)

Despite the fact that Laura Riding (her name now is Laura (Riding) Jackson, following her marriage in 1941) ceased writing poems after the appearance of her Collected Poems in 1938, and refused to allow them to be anthologised except under certain conditions, she was absolutely dedicated to poetry and to what she believed might be achieved in it; no poet more so, as her published record shows. Her view of poetry, however, was different from that of any of her contemporaries. For one thing, she had come to see early in her poetic career, in books such as Contemporaries And Snobs and Anarchism Is Not Enough, which spring from her knowledge gained in writing poetry, that poetry was at long last free from the historic constraints of other categories of thought. Poets, she saw, could no longer pledge their poetic faith to subjects such as religion, as, say, Milton had, or to the expression of a philosophy of social manners, as in the eighteenth century, or to the parallel emotional pantheism to the industrial revolution, as the nineteenth-century poets had, or to science, or any other 'subject'. At the turn of the twentieth century, poetry had run out of subjects in this sense. Fields such as philosophy, science, psychology, history, had been commandeered by experts and the burden of deliverance of subjects formerly believed to be proper domains of poetry had been removed from poets. Modernist poets were, as she pointed out, in search of a subject-any subject. In ...


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