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This article is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

M.L. Rosenthal

The Agenda for spring 1979 has just arrived and-what a delight!-in it I find David Wright's new poem, "Canons Ashby II". This pleasing event seems almost an old friend's courteous gesture of invitation, for I can think of no better example of Wright's special qualities. The very title, a reference to the house and land that John Dryden inherited in Northamptonshire, reminds one of so many of Wright's best poems. These are poems of a particular sort of memory, wry and loving and lightly desolate with a kind of humorous grief, of past phases of English sensibility that linger with the poet whether or not he knows what to do with them. "Canons Ashby II" begins:

Shuffled like hedgehog under leaves
Continuing its other life,
One that's not valid for our lives,
A brownstone hamlet, still extant,
And sometime Dryden family house
By whose calm lawn, now long rough grass,
The cedar still maintains a shade


Now this seems to me very much of the essence of David Wright's truest work. The observation of detail and atmosphere is direct and accurate, yet more than observation; it is an aspect of apperception. As the lines unfold their many elements (the one figure, the images, the apparently incidental but focusing thought in the third line, the invoking of historical memory in the frame of an immediate personal experience, and the quietly emphatic shift of ...

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