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This review is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

FITNESS AND INDEPENDENCE JEFFREY HARRISON, The Names of Things. New and Selected Poems (Waywiser Press) £9.95
JEFFREY HARRISON, Incomplete Knowlege (Four Way Books) $14.95

It has taken a while for Jeffrey Harrison's poetry to reach this country. In the early 1990s a friend alerted me to his quiet, distinctive tones, and at that time the poems that persuaded me of his gift, poems such as 'In the Attic' or 'Skating in Late Afternoon' or 'The One That Got Away' in his 1988 first collection The Singing Underneath (which James Merrill had chosen for the National Poetry Series), did so by talking their way through everyday situations with warmth, curiosity, and an unstrained openness to spiritual values. The skating poem, a memory of childhood, writes of 'the cedars on the hill' as if the spirits of the dead buried there had been 'completely taken up into their branches': 'Dark presences - they seem, now that I have become / aware of them, to be aware of me.' The arrival at a perfect iambic pentameter to close, in which the balance of the words replicates the balance discovered between subject and natural world, is flawlessly judged.

'Arrival', 'Two Salutations', 'Convenience Store' or 'Sketch', outstanding poems in Jeffrey Harrison's second volume (Signs of Arrival, 1996), showed him writing in reflective or celebratory mood, in a soft-spoken New England accent. He is a civilised, understated poet who from volume to volume has refined the characteristic American parlando to his own private purposes. In 'Rowing' (Feeding the Fire, 2001), the physical exertion of rowing ...


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