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This review is taken from PN Review 153, Volume 30 Number 1, September - October 2003.

CIVILISED PLEASURES, AND OTHERS CIARAN CARSON, Breaking News, (The Gallery Press) £8.00
NEIL CURRY, The Road to the Gunpowder House (Enitharmon) £7.95
ANTHONY THWAITE, A Move in the Weather (Enitharmon) £7.95
NIN ANDREWS, The Book of Orgasms (Bloodaxe) £7.95

As I write this in the spring of 2003, there is no escape from televised images of human carnage and material devastation, accompanying distressing tales of post-bellum lawlessness. Turning to Ciaran Carson's potent new collection, Breaking News, brings no relief.

Gutted knapsacks, boots,
cavalry caps, jackets, swords,
mess-tins, bayonets,

canteens, firelocks, tunics,
sabres, epaulettes,
overturned baggage cars,

dead horses
with their legs in the air,
scattered everywhere,

dead bodies,
mostly of Turcos and Zouaves,
picked over by pickpockets,

one of them staggering
under a huge load of gold
watches and teeth.

Hands hanging in the trees
in lieu of fruit,
trunkless legs at their feet.

Carson's tribute to the pioneering Anglo-Irish war correspondent William Howard Russell (1820-1907) may have been conceived as an oblique meditation on his own native Belfast, but has been (at least temporarily) hijacked by events. Needless to say, it has much more than topicality to commend it.

His recent experience of translating Dante appears to have given Carson a taste for the 'remaking' of other writers' work that here finds elaborate expression. The book's climactic sequence, 'The War Correspondent', from which the above quotation comes, is acknowledged by the poet as being a close verse paraphrase of Russell's actual words, the appropriation justified by the proceeding poems - most of them tiny.

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