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

NAUGHTY DEED Kingsley Amis, Collected Poems 1944-1979 (Hutchinson) £4.95

I started to read contemporary poetry as a schoolboy, in the spring of 1962: a good time, since Penguin had just published The New Poetry and the first two Penguin Modern Poets volumes. The one writer to appear both in the Alvarez anthology and in Penguin Modern Poets then was Kingsley Amis, and the most impressive thing about re-encountering those poems in the present volume is their freshness and crispness now. Some of them I've re-read at various times of course, but not in any sustained or methodical way: yet many of the poems seem also memorable, in the best sense familiar.

In that well-known poem originally called "Something Nasty in the Bookshop" and here entitled "A Bookshop Idyll", Amis makes this distinction between men and women poets:


We men have got love well weighed up- our stuff
  Can get by without it.
Women don't seem to think that's good enough;
  They write about it,

And the awful way their poems lay them open
  Just doesn't strike them.


Amis's own poems learn to "get by without it" early on: a line in "Letter to Elisabeth", the first poem here-"At last, love, love has taught me to speak straight"-points decisively away from the poem which contains it, towards the abrasive straight-speaking of Amis's later poems. And this poetic personality brings practical problems: for, despite his evident enjoyment of metre and structure, his bluffly deflating ...


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