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This review is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Cover of The Tender Map
Toby Martinez de las RivasThrift, thrift, Horatio

Melanie Challenger, The Tender Map (Guillemot Press) £8.00
The purpose of a map is to locate oneself not in empty space, but in relation to an other. Perhaps also  to anticipate, mentally, the shape of a land before perceiving it in actuality; to understand its boundaries and what lies beyond them; to discover paths which might shorten the way. But, in essence, it is a study in the relationship between where one is and where one is going.

So it is in Melanie Challenger’s ‘The Tender Map’. The title is taken from Madame de Scudery’s Carte du Tendre, a visual allegory of love produced in the 1650s, showing the paths and pitfalls of the prospective lover journeying toward the beloved. Challenger’s collection is, similarly, an allegorical geography in which each poem is titled after a place, but each place carries with it a secondary title naming some emotional concept with which it is associated. Thus, ‘Suilven or Humility’, and ‘Midsummer Common or Betrayal’. We therefore have a palimpsest through which the reader views the poems as artifacts of both a physical and emotional terrain. Further, the book invites us to read in both ways simultaneously, so that the physical is invested with the emotional and vice versa, and one can only make sense of one through the other.

It is this difficulty in looking simultaneously in two distinct ways, together with the ravishing intensity of Challenger’s language which makes this book so intriguing:

Remember the suns whose singular glance
ripened and sprung us? Your eyes as my suns,
and ...

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