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Pariah Press

Selected Poems by Andrew Taylor & New and Selected Poems by Philip Martin

July 1988, no. 102

Reading these three collections, I was struck by the recurring feel of travel and the great and traditional themes of love, death, and history. These books would not yield much for a study of regionality! As two of the books are selected poems and include work written over nearly thirty years by poets who have spent a lot of time overseas, the sense of history is perhaps not unusual. All the poets have spent time in Europe and America. But the way they view history shows how they differ as poets. Philip Martin seems constantly to feel the history of Europe and Scandinavia in his blood, both in his references back to origins and customs and in his exploration of love and mortality through these.

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‘Academic poet’ signifies, primarily, male academic poet. So, does the adjective ‘female’ in ‘female academic poet’ more intensely qualify ‘academic’ or ‘poet’? And what happens when that female academic poet is a teacher and student of feminist theory and women’s writing? Predictably enough, her work tempts the taboo-laden conjunction of politics and poetry.

It must be said that the poems in Tierra def Fuego, the new and selected poems of Jennifer Strauss, exhibit little anxiety about either of these issues: the role of women in academia or the threat politics might offer to the lyric, Strauss’ poetic home base. The trademarks of the academic poet have an established place in Strauss’ work: the new poem ‘Life 301 – Birthday Tutorial’, for example, picks up a theme from ‘Life 101 – Lecture’ from her first collection, Children and Other Strangers, of 1975, using the classroom as a metaphor for other kinds of learning.

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