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This review is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

The Penguins Stand Aghast NORMAN CAMERON, Collected Poems and Selected Translations, edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker (Anvil) £12.95

Norman Cameron's poetry is easily missed. Looking at first glimpse like staid Georgian verses, his modest output pales next to that of Robert Graves. It is said that Cameron deeply nourished the Movement poets, as if he were a horse ground up to fertilise the mid-twentieth century. Cameron champions insist that his style sprang fully formed into the Oxford air before he moved to London and entered the circle around Graves and Laura Riding in 1928. He is identified as metaphysical, like his Cambridge counterpart William Empson, which raises the question of whether half so much critical energy would have been devoted to Empson's poetry had it not been for his own sustained critical output and professorship. Cameron worked in advertising, published translations of Rimbaud, Villon and Baudelaire (rather than provocative analyses of Donne and Milton), and died in 1953 aged forty-eight.

The poems are often allegorical, housing a specific psychological dynamic within a chosen classical, historical or symbolist frame. A scenario unfolds, a moral is pointed, and the poem closes up, leaving the reader under no compulsion to identify with the stated condition. 'Virgin Russia' finds the 'dead armies stretching like long scars, / With snow for healing overskin' no great loss, compared to that of

     my rich cornlands, that once lined
The Russian border, broken by the tread
Of my own forces, gathering for the raid.

The first person possessive, 'my armies', rolls 'Darius, Charles of Sweden, ...


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