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This review is taken from PN Review 195, Volume 37 Number 1, September - October 2010.

THE LONG GALLERY CHRISTOPHER SALVESEN, The Long Gallery (Shoestring Press) £8.95

Christopher Salvesen’s poems have appeared intermittently over several decades and been admired by good judges (among them P.J. Kavanagh, Peter Porter and John Lucas) but he has never had a large following. This is not surprising since he is instinctively self-effacing, neither shrill nor subjective, and we live in a culture where less scrupulous poets can advertise themselves into celebrity. In a good Salvesen poem, the light falls on what is to be seen and not on the seer himself. He is ‘confessional’ only in so far as his verse begins from a personal sense of things outside himself, whether in foreign places or in books and pictures, not through introspection. Such subjects have been done to death in recent poetry but they are handled differently here. We are not invited to distinguish between the subject and what the poet himself feels about it, as Larkin can’t help doing in a poem such as ‘An Arundel Tomb’. The poet doesn’t wear one
hat for his own feelings and a higher hat for his subject. The two coincide in a single meditation. The poetry needs a certain length, a kind of slow amplitude that relies on a slow verse line to draw the reflection to a point; it never forces itself on us. The point comes through in the end but not too soon or too quickly. The rhythm makes us wait before it gets there:

… In these, recess or passage, was the poetry

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