r o il oetry in
,Alldrew Crozier vo t gY HD (Carcanet Press £2.50 cloth £1.20 . t!tr) f Linear Journal Peter Riley (Grosseteste l ;IeW Books 54p)
iriecil Meanderings in a Tongue of the e Chris Torrance (Albion Village Press
iclod that the range of HD's wark is ,Y being made accessible, albeit in ter-chronological fashion; indeed that is ,Tably all for the best since to approach any ate of her position entails finding some point other than that of the imagiste tiluisciple of Pound and author of a few ?logy-pieces. Following Tribute to Freud nernietic Definition Carcanet Press have ,b,rought together, in one volume for the 4e„,1111e, HD's war trilogy The Walls Do Not Vribute to the Angels, and The Flowering 7v„ nod. Each book of Trilogy is organised "Y in forty-three sections and it is possi14' re. ading such details as a form of ' rical symbolism (four and three as symL T ; ittn entities themselves, added together to , .i tlet,seven and so on), backed up by the il il ; e religious and mythological content of ri sections, to see the whole poem as an , cl„etic work engaged in the manipulation of ; ,"ttitecbatingdh otchceurelt ckenrtowailheldygeis. such a side to 1. ill'ic:',,eth it is not its distinctive characteristic, q u's prescription of the poet's activity has m(s) with the spinning of a "thread/that „all humanity//to ancient wisdom." She istqle role of the poet involved in certain ,11:ies, but they are mysteries which paand skill can penetrate, like DNA or the sPiral through a shell, secrets of ortlia,tion within superficial form expressed tia,"t form's characteristic, recognisable 4 tire. It is a poetic role which includes 'tiltlulic and the collective, privileged only 414: sense of its special attainments, 'l ding a transcendence of the personal ro.,.41 this, set beside her intuitions of istle'41"Ial wisdom and recreations of arche,o1ridsto only a thematic undercurrent to other rY (aspects of the poem which, I find, s,n 4eti‘si' We have a second reference point, the lItti"h and dignity of the poet, the scribe, of % eavge and memory. But there is a third
more immediate frame of reference ,t ev
eryday data of experience which the ,lattflocompasses of wartime London and NI:liar's life in the blitzed city, "when the 4or'5 hissed/in the rain of incendiary." It is esence of such elaborate coordinates for "leril as a whole that underwrites the have of it, not as an hermetic work, 'Ilitys a distinctively open and candid ,Por ethent of writing. of the distinguishing notes of the tuilitv's of an anguished and nervous senNi,4t variance with its environment, both ,:la stantial barbarity of war itself, and the INI"isvert brutalisation inherent in the ,Iloth,.4ti0n of civilian life and opinion. There ;Ithos'ilg precious in this, nor is it a matter of N, Passively expressed; it is the personal rath er by-product of the attempt to val , 57-I) Veth, 'Ile, to hang on to consciousness, to tte an eternal principle and continuity yket) t9 any kind of renewal in such a Ittli arid divided world. There is an intense, hitleptimism inherent in this, the purpose rIci Which is not irrelevant to our own 14 view of human life evinced by HD's poem, the sense of poetic vocation it reveals, and its technical procedures are far from current orthodoxy as to what goes in poetry. Its serial technique places major demands upon the reader's span of attention; its language is unindulgently spare and precise, but does not fall into the rictus of terse brevity which afflicts much of current verse production in England. Neither Peter Riley's The Linear Journal nor Chris Torrance's Acrospirical Meanderings in a Tongue of the Time falls into this category however. One thing they have in common is the employment of serial form, but the nature of the sequence is different in each case, and I should certainly not like to suggest any very extensive derivation of their work from HD. In Riley's book (his fifth) there is a threadlike extension across actual terrain, connectedness partly a matter of linear continuity as the title suggests. Yet this topographical element, with all its potential for the rich and the exotic, is played down throughout; within the poem the actual journey is made the occasion of the poet's apperception of the total world he inhabits. The journey however is not made a pretext for metaphorical substitution (turned into a spiritual journey, for instance, with an attainable goal in view) or for a series of reveries upon suitable occasions discovered in the course of travel. The distinct components of an ordinary, disjunctive contemporary life retain their separate modalities — publicity, culture, violence, economics, adolescence, pathos and so on — merging and emerging in a plurality of consciousness which is sustained by a continuous surface of language. The tone is largely dissociated from any sense of the personal, and this is perhaps necessary for the accomplishment of the oblique jumps and elisions of reference which are sustained within the loosely flowing syntax of this writing. The poem might give the appearance of collage, but I think it would be wrong to see in Riley's work any such synthetic or constructive aesthetic. He is persistent rather than inventive in his language, his art very much a matter of renunciation (of what can easily be made, of available feeling) and openness (to echoic incursions which prey upon and disrupt the mind and feelings).
Whereas Riley employs various strategies to avoid the inauthenticities which beset the contemporary poet who supposes there exists a natural language directly correspondent to his individual sensibility, Torrance is a poet of a more traditional order whose ultimate concern is the creation of an authentic natural speech. He writes about the life and processes in the midst of which he finds himself (in this case it is a wild nature, but he has written equally well, in his previous two books, of urban life) in a way which tends towards visionary elevation, yet he works very close in, the perceptible limits of his world are tightly acknowledged and apply their appropriate constraints to the movement of feeling within his work; the shaping influence of weather is particularly registered, and it is out along such systems that Torrance's perceptions travel for their sense of scale. In a sense there is something analogous in its effects here to the deliberate strategies employed by Peter Riley, only in Torrance's case one finds much more the sense of an immediate personal sensibility at work obdurately excluding the unnecessary, yet able to seize and hold in suspension various impinging natural identities without needing to assimilate or subvert them. Both these poets, it seems to me, are engaged in an attempt to write poetry that can be totally inclusive of a man's serious interests. HD's work ought to be canonical. Torrance and Riley are part of the real direction of English poetry now. I don't suppose, though, that very many will notice for some time yet.
Andrew Crozier is a lecturer in English and American literature at the University of Sussex.