PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Monthly Carcanet Books
Gratis Ad 1
Next Issue Helene Cixous We Defy Augury Carola Luther From ‘Letter to Rasool’ Sarah Rothenberg Ashberyana Jena Schmidt The Many-Faced Lola Ridge Helen Tookey Almost Drowning

This review is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

Embracing the Wind rory waterman, Belonging and Estrangement in the Poetry of Philip Larkin, R.S. Thomas and Charles Causley (Ashgate) £54

Larkin’s ‘essential criticism’ of his modernist predecessors was that their experiments only held sway while ‘we are prepared to be mystified and outraged’, adding that such an approach has ‘no lasting power’. The literature intended to replace and outlast the ‘primitives and decadents of necessity’, in Yvor Winters’s phrase, would be by Larkin’s own engineering, ‘about ordinary sane people doing ordinary sane things’, presumably from ordinary places as well. ‘Why lament Troy fallen when Mathrafal lies in ruins?’, R.S Thomas asked when his predecessor had lamented the ‘Falling Towers’ of Jerusalem, Athens and Alexandria in The Waste Land. The poets of Rory Waterman’s Belonging and Estrangement would sooner mourn Launceston, Hull, and Welshpool.

Waterman is quick to address any potential charge of provincialism laid against these poets, calling his first chapter ‘Provincial and Universal’. He quotes Frost’s maxim, ‘You can’t be universal without being provincial… It’s like trying to embrace the wind’. In a sense, Frost’s assertion is also a criticism of the High Modernism that preceded Larkin, Causley, and Thomas and as such it provides a good jumping-off point for Waterman’s argument. One of the main caveats of his book is that a poem’s regionalism does not necessarily disqualify it from universal interest. In fact, for the poets of Larkin’s generation a sense of belonging was essential to their appeal, along with their unanimous distaste for modernist ‘over-­intellectualisation’, argues Waterman. Such ‘belonging’, although he does not expressly say it, was one of the ways in which poets attempted to re-engage their ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image