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This report is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

celebrate Charles Tomlinson Anthony Rudolf and Lucy Tunstall
LUCY TUNSTALL

I first discovered Charles Tomlinson's work when I was an MA student at Bristol University. This was a couple of years after Charles had left, but his was still a towering presence in the department and in the teaching I received on that course. One poem that made a particularly strong impression at that time, and which I now use in my own undergraduate teaching, is 'The Chances of Rhyme'.

I see this very much in the tradition of George Herbert's poetry with his wonderful living, binding rhymes and the understanding that rhyme has a bodying-forth capacity, a sense of its own volition. Rhyme is an energy, or an entity, which the poet cannot really hope to lead or master, though at times he seems to. Charles's image or conceit for this in his poem is the magical and benignly anarchic forest of Arden in Shakespeare's As You Like It, with, as he puts it, its 'loyal and legendary beasts'.

The Chances of Rhyme

The chances of rhyme are like the chances of meeting -
In the finding fortuitous, but once found, binding:
They say, they signify and they succeed, where to succeed
Means not success, but a way forward
If unmapped, a literal, not a royal succession;
Though royal (it may be) is the adjective or region
That we, nature's royalty, are led into.
Yes. We are led, though we seem ...


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