This fascinating sequence of essays and interviews
illuminates the poetry of the late Peter Redgrove; more than that, it restores
for a while the pet theories, philosophies and themes of a fascinating,
enquiring writer, who somehow dropped out of 'the canon' during parts of the
1970s and 1980s. Many of these are poetic ideas - although not programmatic
theories in the academic sense - whilst others are interests in psychology,
occult and pagan theories and the gender divide.
The first two-thirds of the collection comprises a sequence of interviews,
mostly from the 1980s and 1990s, in which Redgrove explores his methods and
the development of his interests, followed by a handful of literary essays.
These are carefully chosen, being on figures like W.B.Yeats and Ted Hughes,
writers whose own practice is relevant to Redgrove's own mythemes and images.
Additionally, discussions on the competing mythologies of Hughes and Plath
and Robert Graves' The White Goddess
will interest anyone stirred by the deep, subconscious roots of poetic
symbols and themes.
The voice which comes across is enquiring, but spiky, open to possibilities,
but not unwilling to be blunt where necessary: the photographs in Hughes'
volume River, for instance, are
dismissed as presenting 'an embalmed or chocolate-box appearance' -
especially, one might add, when placed alongside Fay Godwin's incomparable
black and white studies in the original Remains of Elmet. Readers of Hughes and T.F.Powys are hereby
directed to these pungent, telling, brief considerations.
Similarly, those who know Redgrove's poetry will not be surprised to see
familiar poems referred to as touchstones of his craft: 'The Idea of Entropy
at Perranporth' and an extremely precise commentary on the late 'My Father's
Trapdoors' sequence, for instance. Redgrove's own analysis of his working
methods is fascinating, though his theories on menstruation and paganism are
working at the far end of the eccentricity scale: for this reason, his
assessment of Yeats' 'automatic writing' is instructive.
His interests in depth psychology, his meetings with John Layard and his
partnership with Penelope Shuttle, and the striking way it came about - all
the accounts of this build up a valuable picture, with very little
repetition, for future studies and biographies; any attentive reader of
Redgrove will want to buy this volume. One minor caveat: a scholarly volume like
this deserves an index.