If his “Selected Poems” (Ed. Peter Porter) is anything to go by, Lawrence Durrell’s poetry has not travelled well through time. Whilst they may have been stylistically appropriate for the 30s and 40s, I fear that do not sit well in the twenty-first century.
Many seem contrived and clumsy, with (sometimes inconsistent) rhyming schemes shoe-horned into place, word order twisted to make them fit. Often the images are vague and nebulous, with the concrete a little too sparse; and more than once I couldn’t help but feel there was a level of knowledge needed – either personal, geographical or cultural – to make them work.
Occasionally one catches a glimpse of the sparkling of a jewel, a line here and there, but for me the effort involved in panning through the poems to find them is a little too onerous.
I like Durrell and have read many of his novels – but I can see why he isn’t so renowned as a poet.