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This review is taken from PN Review 218, Volume 40 Number 6, July - August 2014.

‘The Mirror of an English Field’ brian jones, New & Selected Poems (Shoestring Press) £14.50

Finding myself quoted on the back of this book, I thought it would be interesting to revisit my reviews of Brian Jones’s work and see how well their judgments had stood up. ‘It is his concern with truth-telling that unifies Brian Jones’s work,’ I wrote in 1980, ‘and gives The Island Normal its strength, a poetry austere without coldness and colloquial without slackness.’ What polished phrases I produced in those days! But yes, on the whole I would still endorse those words. I also found myself quoted as asking ‘Why is he so little known, so rarely discussed?’ This is a question that always arises on those rare occasions when Brian Jones’s poetry receives attention, and we shall return to it.

Meanwhile, the priority is to welcome this solid, well-­produced volume of work by a poet who died four years ago without seeing either a Selected or a Collected volume of his work, and whose poems are far too good to be forgotten. Jones began publishing in 1966 with Poems from Alan Ross’s London Magazine Editions, which was welcomed at the time as offering a formally more flexible, and in viewpoint almost social-realist, version of ‘Movement’ poetry. What is really striking about the poems from that volume included here is both how assured they are, as samples of a first publication, and also how painfully self-revealing: how unsparing in their willingness to confront the uncomfortable details of personal relationships. Here are the opening lines of ‘Seeing My Wife Go Out Alone’:

Left at the window, helpless ...


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