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This review is taken from PN Review 229, Volume 42 Number 5, May - June 2016.

Cover of Year of the IngénueCover of The Right Place
Alison BrackenburyOnly

Rupert Brooke, Sixteen Poems
Selected by Henry Maas
Greville Press, £7.50

Michael Naghten Shanks,
Year of the Ingénue
Eyewear, £5.00

Stuart Henson, Feast of Fools, with illustrations by Bill Sanderson Shoestring Press, £7.00
Grey Gowrie, The Right Place Greville Press, £4.50
‘THINK ONLY THIS OF ME’. Did you grow up knowing only a few poems by Rupert Brooke, including ‘The Soldier’? I was startled by much in Henry Maas’s new selection. Maas, noting Brooke’s ‘determination to be modern’, concludes that ‘Love […] is his great subject’.

The opening poem, ‘The Hill’, indeed features boastful lovers:

                                                     Proud we were,
And laughed, that had such brave true things to say.
– And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.

After Brooke’s characteristic dash, how effectively rhythm (and arrogance) are disrupted. His sonnet flashes through various stanzas: Italianate abba, ballad-like cdcd. Elsewhere, he creates a ‘Sonnet Reversed’: anti-climax, via marriage.

Brooke’s precocity is not only stylistic. His dancer’s rhythms present a lover already dead: ‘Most individual and bewildering ghost!—’ Exuberant personifications in ‘The Funeral of Youth’ include ‘All, except only Love. Love had died long ago’. ‘Pain’ precedes the stickiness of Grantchester’s honey.

This selection would be worth reading for one poem alone: the extraordinary ‘Dining-Room Tea’, with its vision of time standing still:

the tea,    
Hung on the air, an amber stream […]

The poem is perfectly constructed, its opening finally repeated: ‘When you were there, and you, and you’. Brooke’s words reach out, past lost coteries, to readers a century later. What might ‘The Soldier’ have written in 1919? I will only say that it is rare to have the chance to review early harsh judgements. I am grateful ...

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