POEMS NEW AND SELECTED by George Mackay Brown


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Selections from Loaves and Fishes and The Year of the Whale together with a substantial group of new poems that show how far Brown has progressed toward archaic simplicity. That's been his aim all along but a miss is as good as a mile and there were some wide ones in the earlier volumes -- too much insistence on nuggety nouns like creel and corn; super-rich infusion of metaphors based on the same stuff -- waves, weaving, granaries, etc.; a strange, angular diction the likes of ""Cornless they range, the lobsters"" -- meaning only that the lobsters reap not. And of course, the merry parade of tinkers, wives and buttery girls and the solemn one of historical personages and drowned sailors, who have their evocative appeal, like the poems themselves. In the best of the later poems Brown has relaxed his pomposities and internalized something of a runic spirit -- at least he convinces us through his first-person narrators that there is a culture behind the words, a world of unquestioned labors and attitudes. We are thinking especially of the poems about proto-Christian Norse Britain, whose cold freshness may have something to do with the fact that they are the first in the book. But they are also, more than any of the others, situated in a redemptive imaginary and often refreshing past.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1973
Publisher: Harcourt Brave Jovanovich