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This review is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

The Last Anthologist greg delanty, The Greek Anthology Book XVII (Carcanet/Oxford Poets) £12.95

The poems are entirely Delanty’s own, but his reading of the actual Greek Anthology, his understanding of its strengths and limitations, as well as his sure handling of the range of his own voice, his skill at turning vernacular language to versified purpose, give his book the distinction of singing the old songbook new. Delanty retunes the Greek lyre to sound his own note as a contemporary poet and citizen of our world. The collection is as various in subject matter as the original, arising out of private and public preoccupations.

The success of the public poems comes from the felicitous ways he is able to strike a lyric measure that averts the sounding board of political tract. These poems summon up the incipience of what’s at stake through their lyrical intelligence, their steady-breathing, unflagging concern juxtaposed with tenuous, shaken-like-a-leaf  tremors. For instance by seizing upon the Greek reverence for Gaia, a number of the ecology-disaster poems work surprisingly well within the sacred tradition of an ancient culture, whose earliest gods were ever present in the shimmering animus of the elemental world. Delanty also gives the tropes wrenchingly personal timbres, as in the following poem ‘Patient’:

The snow has melted clean off the mountain.
It’s winter still. Yet another indication that Gaia
is in trouble, that things aren’t sound.
The rocky mountain top shines
like the bald head of a woman after chemo
who wills herself out of her hospital bed
to take ...

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