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This review is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

For a Maker Voyages Over Voices: Critical Essays on Anne Stevenson, edited by Angela Leighton (Liverpool University Press) £65

Throughout a poetic career spanning more than half a century, Anne Stevenson has made frequent attempts in verse to see off those critics and 'sycophant PhDs' who might seek to consign and confine her to one poetic 'stable' or another. That Poems 1955-2005 is arranged thematically rather than chronologically seems designed to discourage those scholars who would, as scholars are wont to do, assiduously map the evolution of the poet's work. It is perhaps this refusal to court the critical establishment - her unwillingness to be seduced by 'the siren hiss of publish, success, publish, / success, success, success' - that has resulted in a relative dearth of scholarly attention thus far. Angela Leighton's collection looks set to change this. These fourteen essays bear out the view that Stevenson's is a poetry that resists easy taxonomy, and one that is stylistically and thematically multifaceted enough to support diverse and divergent critical responses.

The majority of contributors to this volume are themselves poets, and it tells in the plethora of sensitive and incisive readings of individual poems, and in the general concern with the process of 'making'. Stevenson's manifesto poem 'Making Poetry' (1985) functions as an assured epigraph, and, indeed, John Lucas's essay praises the poet's 'exemplary' concern for 'the making of the poem itself'. This preoccupation with 'making' is evident in Stevenson's own contribution to the collection. Here, as elsewhere in her prose, her readings of the poetry of others prove to be equally illuminating of her ...


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