D. H. Lawrence possessed

DHLAWRENCED. H. Lawrence
THE POEMS
Edited by Christopher Pollnitz
Two volumes, 1,440pp. Cambridge University Press. £130 (US $250).
978 0 521 29429 4

It is so manifestly an excellent thing to have Lawrence’s many poems brought together, edited by so punctilious and expert a scholar – and to have them presented in handsome volumes that do such credit to their publisher – that it feels the keener ingratitude to admit that the experience of reading them all through is, well, a bit of a slog. Mildly reassuring, then, to learn that D. J. Enright felt a similar mixture of gratitude and weariness when he reviewed the edition of Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts (1964) which these volumes now triumphantly supplant. “It must be granted”, Enright wrote on that occasion, “that this Complete Poems – however grateful many of us will be to have it – makes for oppressive, confusing and blunted reading.” Enright hoped that “a critical selection”, judiciously done, might make of Lawrence-as-poet something more acceptable. It is a sensible enough suggestion, and it is a shame Enright did not take on the job himself, as he was an anthologist of great genius; but, in his stead, Keith Sagar and, more recently, James Fenton each made an excellent Selected Poems for Penguin, and both books can certainly be recommended.

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