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This review is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

Grim Brilliance andré naffis-sahely and julian stannard (eds.), The Palm Beach Effect: Reflections on Michael Hofmann (CB editions) £10

Admirers of Michael Hofmann will enjoy this collection of essays, anecdotes and poems from the elegantly various CB editions – not quite a Festschrift, writes Julian Stannard, because the poet isn’t done yet. Some contributors are understandably hamstrung by matiness: ‘it is difficult and delicate to write about a friend and contemporary’, remarks Stephen Romer. Yet Tessa Hadley is substantive about Hofmann’s ‘male-centredness’; Jamie McKendrick illustrates his subjection of ‘a long English tradition of melopoeia…to a kind of critique’; Rosanna Warren and David Wheatley discuss sensitively his use of ellipsis, which is usually traced, like his lists of adjectives, back to Robert Lowell. As Hofmann writes in ‘My Father’s House Has Many Mansions’:

Our heavy glances tipped us forward – the future,
a wedge of pavement with our shoes in it …
In your case, beige, stacked, echoing clogs

This is from Acrimony (1986), a collection centring around the poet’s relationship with his father, the novelist Gert Hofmann, whom he has translated. The older Hofmann wasn’t pleased about the poems, whose precision, one assumes, is merciless. These lines are written out of and describe a type of clamped focus – on a certain subject, mood, on the gouged feel of words themselves – that isn’t all there is to this fine poet, but is more than characteristic. His intelligence operates on the level of the sentence – Hofmann says he reads novels for their sentences – and elects for abruption over ...

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