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This review is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

POETRY AND AUDIENCE 21 Years of "Poetry & Audience", ed. Tom Wharton & Wayne Brown. (Aquila Publishing Co.) hardback £2.75, paperback £1.75

Poetry & Audience was founded in 1953 by a student at Leeds University, as the editors explain in a helpful introduction. The magazine has continued ever since then, numbering among its contributors "the famous, the infamous and those who represent the patient backbone of English poetry." The anthology begins with a prose piece by Marjorie Adix, giving an eye-witness account of Dylan Thomas in Salt Lake City. This has a certain historical interest, even if the statement that "I had no pencil or paper, so I just sat and soaked it up", followed by a good three pages of direct speech as Thomas does battle with his audience, testifies to remarkable powers of recall or a hidden tape-recorder. Nevertheless it is a powerful reminder of the poet, and of that strange mixture of vanity, uncertainty and nervous energy which was peculiarly his own.

The 66 poems which follow offer, as one would expect, a wide range of themes and forms. Most are competent, and many are enjoyable. Stevie Smith on rollicking form; Philip Larkin ("An Arundel Tomb"), Alan Brownjohn, Thomas Blackburn, Anthony Thwaite, John Heath-Stubbs, Cal Clothier, Iain Crichton Smith, Jon Silkin, C. H. Sisson, Vernon Scannell, X. J. Kennedy-all give positive pleasure, and appear at one stage or another of their development. Too many of the other poems are not sufficiently felt and read only like exercises in Correct Writing.

I am not at all sure that the editors' lack of dogmatism is as ...


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