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

A LASTING LIKENESS Matthew Mead, The Midday Muse (Anvil Press Poetry) £2.75

Matthew Mead's subject is the presence and absence of the past. It is a theme that ghosts much current English poetry (the 'archaeological' and topographical poems of Hill, Scupham, Hooker and Wilmer, and the more personal investigations of Sisson for example) but Mr Mead is his own man and his poems are uniquely evocative.

We may trace an oblique debt to Bobrowski (who he and his wife Ruth have brilliantly translated)-there is the same litany of regret, the same recognition of the smallness of rhetoric compared to the vastness of the absence invoked, the same humility and passion in the simple act of naming:

Empty as heaven her eye
Name the dead
Empty as air
And the wind
And the place thereof

Many of the poems deal with the past of Europe, more especially of Germany (where Matthew Mead lives) in this century. His concern is largely with the communist countries and this ideology's contemptuous reshaping of past and present is the source of his bitter parody of Wallace Stevens, called 'The Man with the Red Guitar'. The poem is preceded by an epigraph from Stevens, 'Things as they are have been destroyed', which for Stevens may mean a celebration of the power of the imagination, but for Mead can only be a comment of angry despair. It is his fidelity to things as they are (and were) and his sense of the irrevocability and ...

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