Michael Hofmann on the steady state of Patricia Beer

  • Selected Poems by Patricia Beer
    Hutchinson, 152 pp, £5.95, April 1980, ISBN 0 09 138450 8
  • The Venetian Vespers by Anthony Hecht
    Oxford, 91 pp, £3.95, March 1980, ISBN 0 19 211933 8
  • Nostalgia for the Present by Andrei Voznesensky
    Oxford, 150 pp, £3.50, April 1980, ISBN 0 19 211900 1
  • Reflections on the Nile by Ronald Bottrall
    London Magazine Editions, 56 pp, £3.50, May 1980, ISBN 0 904388 33 6
  • Summer Palaces by Peter Scupham
    Oxford, 55 pp, £3.00, March 1980, ISBN 0 19 211932 X

Patricia Beer’s Selected Poems contain work composed over a period of two decades. They are a tribute to her consistency rather than to her development: I don’t find myself skipping pages because her inspiration underwent a brief eclipse, or took a direction I happen to dislike. Nor do I turn to the newest or the oldest poems more readily: they are too much of a piece. Selection can be a leveller, but in Patricia Beer’s case, the level is excellence. The writing is plain and elegant; the poems range from the quietly autobiographical to the dramatic monologue to the descriptive piece. But by far the majority of them contain elements from all three types, blended together.

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