White Coat, Purple Coat: Collected Poems, 1948-1988

Dannie Abse, Author, M. L. Rosenthal, Foreword by
Dannie Abse, Author, M. L. Rosenthal, Foreword by Persea Books $29.95 (274p) ISBN 978-0-89255-153-8
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
Paperback - 978-0-89255-177-4
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This comprehensive volume of British poet Abse's work serves as both an introduction to and an enduring touchstone of his lyrical voice. A doctor and a poet, Abse brings to his writing a level of humanism often missing from contemporary verse; as he himself puts it, ``Humankind / cannot bear very much unreality.'' Even so, what ``reality'' his poems reflect often borders on the unbearable: in ``In the theatre'' a man undergoing a brain probe cries out, `` `You sod, / leave my soul alone, leave my soul alone.' '' A recurrent theme is the conflict between science and spirituality, as suggested by an image of a white coat ``always stained with blood'' and a purple coat, marked by ``the rose.'' In a long poem, ``Funland,'' Abse deals in depth with the difficulties of believing in both, and, in his closing poem, describes himself as an amalgam of the two: ``And phantom rose and blood most real / compose a hybrid style; / white coat and purple coat / few men can reconcile.'' It is the very effort to reconcile that gives his work its memorable strength. (Mar.)
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