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By Alan Robinson

The writer explores the influence on poetic perform within the Seventies and Nineteen Eighties of modern theoretical advancements, supplying a feedback of the paintings of Seamus Heaney and of poets together with Michael Hofmann, reassessing existence on Mars and supplying retrospective surveys of Fleur Adcock and others.

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Tsvetayeva's diffidence survives only in the rhythmical and syntactical hesitancy which opens this stanza. But this initial faltering is overcome by an upbraiding aggressiveness. The hint of self-pity which closes the Russian poem is replaced by apparent dismissiveness: but there is a tonal ambivalence in the stressed syllable 'love', betraying- as an atavistic term of endearment- his lingering attachment, and also a perplexity about what love amounts to, if this is its result, rather than, as he intends, a belittlement of their former intimacy.

The erotic directness of these adaptations is Raine's way of impressing his personality on what otherwise might be bookish five-finger exercises. In their Janus-faced allegiance to ostentatious allusiveness on the one hand and earthy sensuality on the other, they epitomise the crossroads at which Raine now finds himself as a poet. For, paradoxically, while in 'Babylonish Dialects' he has appeared to favour ever-greater stylistic maniera, cementing his ties with the academic establishment and metropolitan literati, his most recent collection of poetry, Rich, devotes unprecedented space to his working-class background.

His mock-heroic fantasies are treated with affectionate indulgence as they descend to inevitable anti-climax: 'He often drew mud'. Despite his hopeful donning of 'hounds tooth cap and tweed knickerbockers' he is not Sherlock Holmes, nor was meant to be; and his attempt at solving the mystery of life is endearingly futile. Instead, his 'feinting vague arcs in the moist air' recalls Tristram Shandy's arabesque doodles as he strives in vain to write an ordered narrative in a tolerable straight line.

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