The ways of poetry are many but sometimes, as it turns out, they are simply oppositional. These two new volumes of poetry from Angus & Robertson could easily have been produced as the occasion for some compare-and-contrast parlour game. The first, and continuing, thing to be said about them is that Gould is strong on artistic form whereas Owen is strong on life. The harder question to ask about any writer is whether it is better to be good at forms or to be full of life. Both, you will say, of course; but then we can’t have everything.
To the books, then. Jan Owen is a poet who has been looking extremely interesting for several years. Her first book, Boy with a Telescope buoyantly confirms this impression, though it also suggests that she is not as self-critical as she might be. But then who of us is? What it does suggest further, as several other recent titles have done, is that Angus & Robertson could well give its editors more teeth, in order to show its poets off to best advantage. But enough of this general speculation.