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This review is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME ROBERT ARCHAMBEAU, Home and Variations (Salt Publishing) £8.99/$14.99

The American poet Stephen Dunn anatomises the 'home' of suburbia through a mellifluous style that is as deceptively uniform as the social landscape it depicts; implicit in Dunn's gently dystopic verse is the idea that we are all suburbanites now. The work of the Canadian Robert Archambeau is an interesting counterpoint to Dunn's because he is concerned with the variety (the 'variations' of his title) of social practices through which we have made and imagined 'home' or 'homes' in both the present day and past-time. Neither poet is at all nostalgic but both are keenly aware that the home of our dreams always falls short of our grasp; indeed, contra Frost, it often turns out to be a place where they don't take you in.

Archambeau opens with his title poem 'Home and Variations' which begins with a staccato exchange about those who move and don't have homes and those who don't and do. But it's not just a matter of movement. Home itself is never secure in and of itself:

And others stay in one place. And if
they stay and the place won't stay as
the place they knew was that place that's 'home' they feel
a lack. Stop. And this tells.

Tellingly, home then floats not in a place but in fictive remembrance and imagination. So the poem then opens up from its contrapuntal variations to the main theme: home is always the place that ...
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