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This review is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

LICORICE AND BRANDY David Holbrook, Lost Bearings in English Poetry, Vision, £5.80.

It's now not far off half a century since F. R. Leavis championed the poetry of Hopkins, Pound and Eliot, poets who looked like showing the way forward from a romanticism gone dead but refusing to lie down. Now, in David Holbrook's twentieth book (and he tells us in the text that there are two others in preparation), we are informed that the way forward has merely projected us into the black hole of nihilism. A poem of Yeats, one of Hardy, and one of Rosenberg, constitute about all that the twentieth century can offer in terms of the 'restoration of creative man'. These, the Impressionist painters, and, of course, the music of Mahler.

The trouble is that we have now suffered some three hundred years of the Galilean-Newtonian-Cartesian dehumanizing process-the mechanistic view of the universe-and the result has been 'the failure of confidence in creativity'. According to Holbrook, this needn't and shouldn't be. The study of philosophical biology (which this work ably anthologizes) should show perfectly well that the fashionable nihilistic postures, the failures of creative nerve that are to be found in modern poetry, are absurdly out of place in their inability to find man 'at home in the universe'. Poetry urgently needs 'a greater awe'.

You won't find this in Lowell ('transfixed paralysis'), or Pound ('a solitary visit to the Jeu de Paume should have demonstrated a way in which man's vision can redeem the world, filling it with mystery, meaning and ...

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