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Dannie Abse, Speak, Old Parrot, 80 pp, £15 hardback, Hutchinson

One of the finest poems in Speak, Old Parrot is “Scent”, another elegy to Abse’s late wife, though this one feels almost like an elegy to the elegiac mood. The poet describes himself hesitating at the gate-post, smelling a shrub she once planted. Its scent is so alluring, so delinquent, that he imagines Adam smelling it in Eden and falling on Eve with delight or, in our world, scholars in Athens and Alexandria being distracted from their scrolls by it. But what does he care for that, he says; for him the smell means only the wife he has lost. … Continue Reading