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

I KNEW A MAN Edgell Rickword, Behind the Eyes, Collected Poems and Translations, Carcanet, £3.25.

Edgell Rickword is one of those figures one must know something about, if one is to understand the development of English literature in the twentieth century. This has now been made easier, for the post-Second World War generations, by the publication of Essays and Opinions, 1921-31, two years ago, and by the present volume. The work both of the critic and the poet is now compendiously and conveniently open to view.

There is a sense in which Rickword is to be regarded as the critic turned poet, rather than as the poet turned critic, so long as this is not understood as denying him a genuine poetic gift. It is simply that one gets the impression that the critical faculties have a certain primacy, with him. He is not-or so it seems to the reader-a man who has been driven to write poems, and whose intellect then speaks up and demands to know the whys and wherefores of this incomprehensible activity. The critical voice is paramount in the poems themselves, whatever obscure motivations wriggle underneath. Literary criticism slithers into social and political criticism, under the steam-roller of which, it is arguable, the poet finally-almost-disappears.

The present volume is regarded by the author as 'a complete poems-all that he wishes to preserve'. The work is 'drawn mainly from the . . . three volumes, Behind the Eyes, Invocations to Angels, and Twittingpan. The text incorporates' the author's 'latest revisions and includes some unpublished material'. There are ...


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