An influential poet and critic who didn’t propose doing it himself once remarked that bringing together in one large, probably expensive book all the poems you wished to preserve from numerous slim volumes amounted to ‘putting your life on the line’. He supported what seemed a rather melancholy, even melodramatic view with examples of collected editions summarily scorned by critics, or merely ignored, in some cases also remaindered, with poets’ hopes and lives duly blighted. But the belief that a collected edition is required to set the seal on a lifetime’s achievement dies hard; and sometimes, publishing one will turn out to be the right, well-timed decision.
Anthony Thwaite’s admirable Collected Poems, which is in many ways the record of a life as well as the creative output of a lifetime, amply fulfils that ambition, and will not disappoint its purchasers. This finely produced, reader-friendly volume contains 380 poems, and with the earliest (written between 1953 and