Kingsley Amis, the author of Lucky Jim, The Anti-Death League, and a host of other smart, stylish and occasionally quite silly novels, writes wise and vaguely stodgy poetry, full of long gentlemanly metaphors but without much crispness of language. His Collected Poems 1944-1979 is, as any bag of 35 years' worth of anything has every right to be, a bit of a hodge podge. There are some prematurely-greying early works of some elegance, rather reminiscent of early Philip Larkin or John Wain ("Belgian Winter," "Retrospect"); there is some doggerel ("Fair Shares for All"); there is some sophomoric drivel ("Toys," "Report"); there are fine things ("Science Fiction," "A Song of Experience"--the latter with witty, well-crafted verses like "He tried all colours, white and black, and coffee/Though quite a few were chary, more were bold/Some took it like the Host, some like a toffee/The two or three who wept were soon consoled."). Amis is an able versifier, but he seems dispassionately distant, the outsider looking through the window--noticing death behind the carnival mask of sex, say, then shrugging smugly and moving along the sidewalk.
An English-born poet only slightly younger than Amis Dennis Silk, writes with an air of distance, too, but of a very different sort. In The Punisbed Land the author, who has lived in Jerusalem since 1955, seems to feel more strongly than most the spiritual implications of the ordinary, the deep religious possibilities of the merest object or encounter; these feelings seen to awe him. He is like, not a prophet, exactly, but a philosopher (in the older sense), passing (invisible?) through a "punished land," "too beautiful for its inhabitants"--but passing, at the same time, far too readily from the real world to the spirit world. Hardly getting his feet dusty he writes of"...the toes that attack me/because I am with them so seldom." His is the distance of riddle from truth.
R. G. Vliet's Water and Stone is a deceptively quiet collection of near, image-rich work, largely what might be described as observations ("In a Photograph by Brady") or apercus ("The Shade," "Girls on Saddleless Horses"). There is also, incidentally, some particularly chilling cancer imagery in various places ("...cobalt's/basilisk stare, the destroyed blood"; "the crab/under the heart, the thickening node"); and the death-soaked title work, a sort of Japanese No drama, is frighteningly memorable.
Poetry East (paperback,$3) is a new periodical, edited by Richard Jones and Kate Daniels. This debut edition offers an eclectic, mostly finely-wrought bunch of verse, including a section of Swedish poems, from the imagist miniatures of Harry Martinson to the brusque commonplaces of Sonja Akkeson ("There is an interest in Swedish poetry here in America which is quite remarkable," says editor Jones, perhaps somewhat hopefully); a healthy chunk of presumably new American work (including a moving tribute to Cesare Pavese by David Wojahn and a backhanded one to the Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh by the redoubtable Louis Simpson), and welcome translations of works by the Spanish poet Gloria Fuertes and the Hungarian poet Miklos Radnoti (who was executed in 1944 and some of whose works, including several represented here, were found on his body when it was exhumed two years later--a posthumous work if ever there was any).