23 NOVEMBER 1991, Page 36

William Scammell

Derek Mahon's Selected Poems (Viking/Gallery, £14.99) brings together as fine a body of work as has been written in the past 30 or 40 years. His coolly classical ironies (The world is everything that is the case/from the fly giving up in the coalshed/to the Winged Victory of Samothrace') shine out from a passidnate, wide-ranging intelligence and that difficult thing, a new-made lyricism. Osip Mandelstam's first volume, Stone (1913), finally reached us in a useful translation by Robert Tracy, as did his Collected Prose, edited by Jane Gary Harris (Collins Harvill £6.95 and £9.95). Marina Tsvetayeva's ecstatic essays, Art in the Light of Conscience, selected and edited by Angela

Livingstone (Duckworth, £20), have just arrived too; not gushing, as I once thought, but nobly eloquent.

In a good year for literary biography, John Worthen's D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 (CUP, £25) stood out for its patient honesty.

The best new poet I read was Jamie McKendrick, whose The Sirocco Room (OUP, £5.99) marks a distinguished debut.