Never likely to become a ‘ national treasure ‘, like his fellow centenarian Philip Larkin, Donald Davie has become, in stark contrast, a rather forgotten figure. An academic, like Kingsley Amis and D. J. Enright, but from a very different background ( Yorkshire Baptist ) he was a fellow ‘ Movement’ poet, but not being a novelist like Amis, he became better known as a critic, rather than a poet, though his poetry perhaps deserves to be better known by the ‘ man in the street ‘.
His earliest poetry, such A Winter Talent 1955 was a direct response to the Apocalyptic school that flourished during the Second World War and spilled over into the late forties. The collections that followed, notably Events and Wisdoms(1964) showed a residue of the influences of the Imagism of Ezra Pound, twentieth century Russian, Chinese poetry of all eras, and American poetry. By the sixties he had become a significant figure in English letters as a critic, and it is as such that he wrote for the New Statesman. Two of his reviews here appear among the archive of the academic Patrick O’Donoghue.
In the first, a review of Eliot’s Collected Poems, 1909 – 1962 (11 October 1963), Davie’s perceptive appraisal is a sort of fan letter to the American. As a poet he is seen as a master of self-control, unlike so many poets, preserving only those poems that he feels deserve to live. Continue reading