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This review is taken from PN Review 4, Volume 4 Number 4, July - September 1978.

A RISKY BUSINESS What is to be Given by Delmore Schwartz, Carcanet, £2.90.

The risks awaiting readers of this volume are considerable, since, as Douglas Dunn's introduction partly shows, Schwartz became his admirers in perhaps the worst possible sense. What blinkers can we find to keep our eyes directly on the poems, and avoid the disturbing forms of Bellow and Berryman which lumber along just over our shoulders? They, after all, are the ones with the authority and the success, while Schwartz from their view-point more and more takes on the guise of reputed crank, genius, and doomed bard, all the veneer of a Romantic giant. The appearance of these poems might even seem to add an extra validity to the fictionalization of Schwartz, the Great Gift, by his friends; some might read him as they feel obliged to peruse Holinshed or Plutarch. Poetry, fortunately, has just about managed to separate itself from biography, but the first risk to be taken with these poems is that of discovering what matters to us more, poems or gossip, and which adds sauce to which.

Schwartz too takes risks; 'Prothalamion', one of the longest poems in the collection, shows how he can over-reach himself, and ranges from tightly controlled statement to exclamatory evocation. Like many of his poems, it has a partly dramatic form, as if he is making speeches to himself, and often borders on pastiche of other writers, as if he is making speeches to them:


But this is fantastic and pitiful,
And no one comes, ...


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