Peter Levi

Better Than Seamus Heaney

Mornings in the Baltic


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Not knowing Adam Thorpe’s poetry before, I found it good at first but good of a vaguely familiar kind. After all, we no longer suppose that every poet, still less every poem will be so original as to be startling; only two or three poets in a generation will surprise us, and they will not necessarily be the best. All the time, the old art docs lumber along in new directions: Tennyson is somehow an advance on Keats and on early Tennyson, and Philip Larkin strikes a new note unknown to Yeats or Hardy. Adam Thorpe has learnt not one particular lesson, but more or less all the lessons of the generations of poets now approaching sixty, uniting in himself the small advances they showed in their different styles, and alchemising them into something of his own, which as one gets to know him better one would not mistake for anyone else’s verses. This is what used to be called a new voice in poetry, and as much a pleasure to welcome now as any time. Mornings in the Baltic is as good as the first books of most living poets, and better than Seamus Heaney’s whose greatness has been a slow growth.

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