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This review is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

VISIONS AND REVISIONS Vernon Watkins, The Breaking of the Wave (Golgonooza Press) £1.50
Vincent Morrison, The Season of Comfort (Bloodaxe Books) 65p

"The Breaking of the Wave" is a selection of uncollected and unpublished material from the period 1937 to 1966. It appears twelve years after Vernon Watkins' death-he had retired from the bank in Swansea, was resident poet at a college in America, and died of a heart attack while playing tennis. The brief introduction by Gwen Watkins and Ruth Pryor explains how the poet used to insist on arranging his poems thematically for publication, with the consequence that there were always surplus poems. Of the twenty-eight now available in this posthumous collection twenty-one have not before seen print. Whether so fastidious a writer as Watkins notoriously was would have sanctioned the printing of at least two or three of them here is a matter of conjecture. Though they cannot damage his established reputation, his "unfaltering dignity and eloquence" (John Press), there are, in view of his obsessive perfectionism, some uncomfortable moments in some of them: the rhyme, for example, for "consecrated" in the line "Wine, scroll and music kept the dead elated" ("Separations"), the awkward inversions of "While he her crowns with subterranean flame" ("The Field") or "Men see not this. . . ." ("The Path of Light") and the couple of poems where echoes of his friend, Dylan Thomas, are rather strong: "Faint grows the hammer of the striking man/Swung to corruption, and the sun's escape ("Corrupt Birth") or "Sheathed in the slow stem lies the lily's dagger" ("Samson"). There is also at times a feeling of constriction ...


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