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This review is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

Cover of Going Out
Peter ScuphamNot Arcane Anthony Thwaite, Going Out (Enitharmon) £9.99

When an eighty-four year-old poet gives his new collection such a title, a pleasing host of ambivalences accompanies him. But, despite the title-poem’s rueful farewells, this book’s poésie du départ has a light, flying music, an openness to possibility, which almost conjures the shades into good behaviour. As Ruth Pitter says in her long poem ‘Persephone in Hades’ (1931):

The lovely day we know, but in our loving
Ask whispering, What of night, that which is hidden?

In this collection, the word ‘whispering’ is appropriate, for many of the finest poems here are quiet, undeclamatory, a self-communing which we are allowed to overhear, the opening phrases flicked up into the light from a hidden conversation – ‘And where we go from here . . .’ , ‘And here it is . . .’ , ‘And still up there . . .’ There are no sureties in these explorations of the mystery of things, but an elegant seriousness from a poet who is not diffident in tacking his Anglican colours lightly to the mast, his fullest exploration of this position coming in ‘Credo’ where, despite all the historic obstacles, the pedantries and absurdities, the ‘bleating synods’ and ‘churches filled with soft moans and cheery ditties’, he can echo and accept the cry of the possessed boy’s father in Mark: ‘Lord, I believe: help thou my unbelief’. ‘Tongues’ and the airy ‘Annunciation’, which reminds me in its clarity and unfussiness of the Veneziano in the Fitzwilliam, are part of this theme, which finds its apogee in ...


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