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This review is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Late Gifts arthur boyars, Dictations: Selected Poems 1940-2009 (The Philidor Company) £16.00

Arthur Boyars was precociously successful as a poet almost seventy years ago. His first book of poems was published when he was only twenty-one by Fortune Press, chosen by the same savvy editor who had published Dylan Thomas and was soon to bring out Larkin's The North Ship. Boyars had already made something of a stir at Wadham College, Oxford. With John Wain, he edited Mandrake, a magazine which continued to appear until 1957. Some years after Oxford, Boyars was one of the poets Alvarez included in his anthology of New Poetry (1962), alongside Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn, Geoffrey Hill, R.S. Thomas, Charles Tomlinson and others whose names have lasted half a century. Then, for his own reasons, Boyars abandoned poetry, aside from some fine translations of Russian poets, including Yuli Daniel and Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

He dedicated himself instead to the world of early music, and the remarkable publishing house run by his wife Marion Boyars, with a distinguished list of authors including Elias Canetti, John Cage and Hubert Selby Junior. He was a remarkable musicologist, yet it is much to be celebrated that, after the death of his wife, poetry has been returned to him. I use the passive voice deliberately here, because the title of this book Dictations is meant be taken seriously; he insists the lines are not his own but rather gifts from a divine spirit:

At night to demonstrate your power,
Have woken me from sleep to tell ...


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