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This article is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

Outside the Imaginary Museum: Lynette Roberts and Keidrych Rhys
Mythology and Represenation in the Poetry of Lynette Roberts and Keidrych Rhys
Charles Mundye
In 1957 Donald Davie gave a radio talk in which he reflected upon the implications for modern poetry of André Malraux's idea of the 'imaginary museum'. Advances in technology and scholarship had changed the way that the modern visual artist could access diverse artistic and cultural traditions, and Davie was giving thought to the related challenges that face the modern poet:

The problem for the poet is not that he has no mythology to use, but that he has no one such mythology, in other words, that he has too many mythologies to choose among and nothing to direct him which one to choose in any given case, nothing to tell him which of the innumerable galleries in the imaginary museum are those he should frequent.1

Poetry is a special case, Davie argues, subject to the same developments in anthropology that opened up a diversity of materials to the modern artist, and yet limited by the lack of a true lingua franca. The anxiety for the modern poet is that she may become either too provincial or too international. In relation to the imaginary museum, he claims, 'poetry finds itself in an uncomfortable betwixt-and-between' (p. 50). Davie was also reflecting on the differing responses to this imaginary museum of his generation, and the generation of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (whose language in The Cantos, Davie says, is 'literally international'). Like many critics since, he elides the generation of writers who came between the earlier modernists and his own ...


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