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434 LETTERS IN CANADA 1979 essential problem of the annotator: the difference between conscious poetic allusion and semi-conscious or unconscious echoes. Annotating as though there were no distinction, Summerfield misses the subtle allusions (perhaps doubting these), while he gives all his references an equal importance, authority, and finality. When, in 'The Dream of Private Clitus: the speaker greets a friend 'wafted in from Arcady' and asks 'gotta nymph for a sister?' (SL, 16), Summerfield writes: 'Arcadia, a city state in the centre of the Peloponnesus and contiguous to Elis' (p 149). Predictably he has erred on the side of exact definition, failing to mention the nymph's poetic habitat, the pastoral Arcadia, contrasted ironically to the battle of Teutonborg Wood as recounted by the soldier Clitus. A final objection, rather difficult to make, pertains to the very service provided by the book. Summerfield has laboured without the reward of critical vision, and he deserves our gratitude for doing so. But this spare and itemized annotation opens Jones all too Widely to his enemies: it is easy to say that the allusions are simply 'laid on: appliqued, by the poet, that they are not alive in a poetic way. To counter that charge I recommend the book to writers who can develop and refine Summerfield's research, who can contribute to the growing body of critical literature on this important modem poet. (VINCENT B. SHERRY) Allan E. Austin. Roy Fuller Twayne. 146. $11.50 This is number 253 in Twayne's English Authors Series. Bound in red, it has a gold lion prancing on the cover to help us locate Roy Fuller novelist , poet, critic - on the map of literature. It is, unmistakably, straight off the academic production line. One does not open any of these volumes with high expectations, but some are good, and at least one, in the parallel American series, Ann Stevenson's introduction to Elizabeth Bishop, is excellent. Professor Austin's contribution, however, matches the format: it is a production-line job. Presumably the modest aims of this series are to inform students of what is worth reading and assist them in reading it. But you do not fulfil even these aims by plodding through 26 books, half of them volumes of poetry, listing themes, outlining plots, making general characterizations , and singling out the odd poem for more extended comment. What purpose, for example, is served by this kind of summary? 'All of this makes it evident enough that one does not find in this poetry "the wilder passions" or the "overtly lyrical," but, if this be counted as something of a loss, returns flow from the quality of concern for the life experienced by thoughtful individuals.' Staggering from one cliche to the next, it turns all to triteness; such 'informativeness' is a positive disservice to the poet. (The bad writing is characteristic too; slack, lacklustre, banal, inelegant, HUMANITIES 435 even when praising its subject it sounds uninterested in him and fails to show what is interesting about him.) You cannot 'cover' a writer thus in 120 pages. You select and focus, you make comparisons with other poets, not merely to indicate influences, but to define and evaluate and 'place' him in the context of his contemporaries and predecessors; in a word, you criticize. But Austin does not criticize. The inclusion of the quoted phrases in that sentence of his - they come from a Times Literary Supplement review - is typical; many paragraphs are composed as a mosaic of others' opinions, usually incorporated without comment, never cited for disagreement or intelligent qualification. It is incredible that Austin should have thought those particular inanities worth quoting, but that he did is symptomatic of a general critical blankness. He does say that some poems and some volumes of poetry are better than others, but in no way that would satisfy a moderately discriminating reader of poetry does he show what makes them better. One ofthe poems that he praises is 'The Image.' Yet it is no better and perhaps no worse than a score of academically chatty poems of the fifties. The model is the same for all of them. It opens self-consciously, the poet wryly conscious of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 434-436
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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