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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

CASES OF SAMPLES New Poetry 1, ed. Peter Porter and Charles Osborne, Arts Council, £1.80.
Contemporary Women Poets, ed. Trevor Kneale, Rondo Publications, £2.50.
Soundings, ed. Kit Wright for the Poetry Society, Heinemann, £1.25.
Cambridge Book of English Verse 1939-1975, ed. Alan Bold, Cambridge University Press, £7.50.
The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, new edition, ed. John Heath-Stubbs and David Wright, Faber, £5.50 cloth, £1.50 paper.

A good anthology is not just a book, it's a stimulus to further reading, or considered rereading, of individual poets. When young and discovering new areas of poetry, I was glad of anthologies like New Lines, Alvarez's tendentious The New Poetry, the compelling original 1936 version, still in public libraries, of Michael Roberts's Faber Book of Modern Verse. Unfortunately, none of the volumes for review falls into either of the classes which might prompt me to buy it for myself or a friend: the anthology perceptively representative of the best poets and poetry of a period; or that coherently embodying the discriminating commitment of an editor with enthusiasms to impart.

Of course anthologies justify themselves in different ways and terms. All balance what the editor thinks representative, with his predilections; the appropriate point of balance depends on scope and purpose. Anything comprehending a whole period must include, substantially, its major and good minor poets, as well as more individualistic preferences, while also offering a sensitively distinctive overall perspective. Anthologies, or annuals, culling newer work, of which P.E.N. New Poems is the most familiar, risk seeming bitty, random and undiscriminating in attempting to 'cover the scene': archipelagos of good poems in a welter of the mediocre or worse, the really great hardly to be anticipated. Here, a more incisive, or courageous, editorial policy than common would be welcome, and indeed rather than more ragbag compilations occasionally deviating into the memorable, I would prefer the discerning personal selection of ...


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