Collected Poems by Ted Hughes, Paul Keegan (ed); Collected Poems by Robert Lowell, Frank Bidart, David Gewanter (edd) - review by Peter Washington

Peter Washington

A Trinity In Verse

Collected Poems

By

Faber & Faber 1333pp £40 order from our bookshop

Collected Poems

By

Faber & Faber 1186pp £40 order from our bookshop
 

If you saw a recent television programme about the pyramids, you may understand my mixed feelings about the volumes under review. They raise generous monuments to remarkable talents, but monuments can be overwhelming, especially on this scale.

Inside a pyramid, the mummy. Inside a Collected Poems - what? If editors are to dead poets what embalmers were to Egyptian queens, they presumably hope to preserve their divinities by wrapping what remains of them in layers of paper. In both cases questions arise as to what exactly is being preserved and whether the effort is worthwhile.

Many people would regard such questions as absurd when applied to Lowell and Hughes. Surely they are self-evidently Great Writers, modern equivalents to the God-Kings of antiquity? Perhaps. The decline of traditional religion over the last two centuries has resulted in the replacement of priests by Lowell: poets as spiritual

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter