POETRY IN BRIEF

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The Independent Culture
! New and Selected Poems by C K Williams , Bloodaxe pounds 9.95.

Williams is regarded by some as one of America's finest, and his new book comes in a large format to accommodate the famously long lines in which high style grapples with quotidian desires and disappointments. The early poems are openly portentous, the later ones a Jamesian wrestle with consciousness or a regular guy's confrontations with suffering humanity. Suffering looms large throughout, in fact, a mite wordy for my taste, trying all sorts on for size, from Greek myth to Raymond Carver. There's plenty of real perception and insight, but it's always in danger of being pushed down onto its knees in the chapel perilous of cosmic significance.

! These Jaundiced Loves by Christopher Pilling, Peterloo pounds 14.95.

A complete translation of Tristan Corbiere's Les Amours Jaunes with French and English texts on facing pages. Corbiere (1845-75), one of Verlaine's four poetes maudits, is difficult enough in the original and next to impossible in English, which has stimulated Pilling to this 25-year labour of love. "No poet of half his greatness is so undervalued and unread," said Randall Jarrell, and Eliot wrote that he was as important to him as Laforgue and Donne. The translations heroically attempt to reproduce much of the quirky idiom and formal brilliance of the original, whose multiplicity of voices is as "dialogic" as any Bakhtin could have wished. A "poet by default" engaged in merciless self-examination, Corbiere shows up acres of 20th century French poems for the pallid things they are.

! The Mersey Goldfish by Ian Duhig, Bloodaxe pounds 6.95.

Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley supply two of the blurb's three endorsements of Duhig's last book - "profoundly and uproariously funny" - which must set some kind of Merseyside record. Duhig is of Irish Catholic extraction, much possessed of wordplay, etymology and the clash engendered by collisions between "high" and "low" registers in history, art, scholarship, etc. Tall stories and learned disquisitions alternate with domestic poems about children, home, travel. School of Muldoon (with Joyce and Flann O'Brien waving in the wings) but without the master's wickedly light and lightly wicked touch.

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