The N"/>

COLLECTED POEMS

Tom Raworth, Author . Carcanet $25.95 (650p) ISBN 978-1-85754-624-8

Raworth is one of several English poets who began writing and publishing in the early 1960s, influenced by certain transatlantic developments (jazz, Donald Allen's The New American Poetry) and spurred by a strong negative reaction to the prevailing dreariness of the U.K.'s literary climate (Amis, Larkin, the "Movement" poets). His first book, The Relation Ship (1966), was praised by Charles Olson for being "preternaturally wise," and since then he has published over 40 collections of poetry, translations and graphics, many of them long out-of-print, and at last brought together here. As Raworth has remarked, "My method is the essence of simplicity. I write down fragments of language passing through my mind that interest me enough after thought has played with them for me to imagine I might like to read them. What form that documentation takes doesn't interest me as an intention, but only as the most accurate impression of the journey of interest." Luckily, Raworth possesses the quickest of minds, the keenest of eyes and the surest of hands, and his rapid takes on Paul Klee's notion of "taking the line for a walk" have produced poems of great energy and economy, the best of which are entirely shorn of affect, and gleam with a crystalline intensity. The English canon will have to be adjusted to accommodate them, from the relatively carefree domesticity of the '60s ("she came in laughing his/ shit's blue and red today those/ wax crayons he ate last night"), or the anger and loss of the '80s and '90s ("colourless nation/ sucking on grief/ [...]the homeless stare/ at nightlong lights/ in empty offices"). Raworth once titled a poem (in, as it happens, the one book missing from the Collected, Pleasant Butter), "Art is the Farthest Retreat from Boredom." It is impossible to imagine writing getting further from boredom than this. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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