16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 47

P. J. Kavanagh

Journals, honest self-examinations day by day, observations of internal and external weathers, can be fascinating. Philip Toynbee's two, Part of a Journey and End of a Journey, are prime examples. So is Jeremy Hooker's Welsh Journal (Seren, £7.95) in which he bravely, even dourly, questions his life as a poet, as an academic and as an Englishman who, despite himself, finds himself uneasy in Wales: both landscapes, of Wales and of his own interior searchings, keep one reading. (I notice, late, this was published in 2001; a reminder that as time passes it passes progressively quickly.)

Definitely of this year is the belated Collected Poems of Pearse Hutchinson by Gallery Books (£10) whose list and elegance of production become wider and more distinguished year by year. Dubliner Hutchinson is pan-European, dips in and out of languages like a dolphin, with a dophin's delight, fierce in his protectiveness of the undervalued (people, as well as

threatened languages); his individual note is recognised from the first line, and is unique.

Even more bang up to date in Poetry Ireland Review 73 (£7.99) is a long poem by Anthony Cronin, 'ChiIde Harold to the Dark Tower came'. Amid much whingeing in the rest of the Review about poetry's marginalisation, `Whither poetry?' and the like — and plenty of poems included that more than justify its fate — Cronin's 14 stanzas of 14 lines, technically assured, deeply intelligent, survey a landscape almost as blasted as that of Browning's poem. It is about the insidious corruption that overtakes even an innocent acceptance of empty, traditionless values: 'The dark tower knew the philosophic vacuum/ In which mankind now lived and welcomed it.' Just one good poem a year can answer the idiot query `Whither poetry?' Answer: even at length to be light years quicker than a novel.