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This review is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

Cover of Cain
Natasha StallardOn a Naff Edge Luke Kennard, Cain (Penned in the Margins) £9.99

The Genesis figure of Cain, who was condemned to wander the earth by God after the murder of his brother Abel, has appeared in the work of Byron and Titian and a Louis Armstrong song. In Luke Kennard’s interpretation, Cain appears by ringing the doorbell, disguised by ‘an actual size, inflatable Frankenstein’s monster’. Cain becomes the antagonist, sidekick and spiritual guide to the narrator Luke Kennard – who is and isn’t the same Luke Kennard as the author – as he tackles a crisis in faith, a marriage break-up, a hangover, a trip to a broken shrine and a festival performance at an ‘unpopular poetry tent’.

Cain is Kennard’s fifth book of poetry. The poems are linked by the narrative of Cain and Kennard’s relationship, in a persona style similar to Ted Hughes’ Crow, Jacob Polley’s Jackself and Kennard’s previous poem ‘The Murderer’. Although not a radical departure from Kennard’s usual tone of sad, slapstick and self-sabotaging characters, ‘Cain’ aims for more difficult and sincere subject matter than earlier collections The Harbour beyond the Movie (shortlisted for the Forward Prize) and A Lost Expression by examining the nature of faith.

Kennard, who was raised Protestant and is now Greek Orthodox, has described Cain as his most confessional work and his closest to language poetry. The book’s centre piece is ‘Anagrams’, a series of thirty-one anagram poems, each only using the 335 letters from the story of Cain in Genesis 4:9–12. As a further constraint each poem outlines an episode of a TV show based on Cain, and ...

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