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This review is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

THE SAGE OF PALO ALTO Grosvenor Powell, Language as Being in the Poetry of Yvor Winters (Louisiana State University Press) £8.40
Elizabeth Isaacs, An Introduction to the Poetry of Yvor Winters (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press) n.p.

I suppose it is still true that Yvor Winters is chiefly known-in so far as he is known-as a critic rather than as a poet. Though he himself wrote that the great critic is an even rarer animal than the great poet he would certainly have regretted this ordering of his talents; for Winters the poetry came first, both chronologically and in importance-the criticism was always an adjunct to the verse. So it is heartening that these two new books should concentrate on that part of Winters's oeuvre which he considered the more significant-the poetry.

Grosvenor Powell's in the main excellent book Language as Being in the Poetry of Yvor Winters is chiefly an orderly presentation of the various philosophical presuppositions that underlie Winters's verse. As Mr Powell points out, Winters was unimpressed by romantic notions that 'the highest function of poetry is . . . the direct expression of intense feeling'; he saw poetry as a 'technique of contemplation', rather than as a means of creating or communicating excitement. Poetry was, to use his own phrase, a 'quest for reality', intimately bound up with understanding and morality. His philosophical attitudes-which, given the intellectual rôle he assigned to poetry, are clearly of great importance for the just appreciation of his own verse-are not always clear to the casual reader (pace Mr Powell's statement that 'For the most part, his poems do not require explication'), and a conscientious exposition of these concerns, such as this book provides, is ...

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