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This review is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.

PASSION AND POISE Dick Davis, A Trick of Sunlight (Anvil) £7.95
Michael Alexander, Old English Riddles (Anvil) £8.95

Dick Davis's seventh collection includes a poem published in a chapbook of sonnets, by different poets, all using the rhyme-words of Shakespeare's Sonnet XX. The crux of 'The Old Model's Advice to the New Model' regarding the artist is that

... you won't spend much time rolling
Across the floor or in his bed: his gazes
Are usually less carnal than controlling,


However,

...what he's created
Can look like Lust Incarnate's drooling doting
And Lust is what he's certain he's defeated.


The balance of passion and poise is a constant tension in Davis's work. Committed to traditional forms, sometimes he over-emphasises a distanced tone, stultifying the subject; as when the lines, 'In middle age, to my chagrin I find / That death and sex preoccupy my mind' ('Chagrin') faintly echo Yeats's 'The Spur' - very faintly; his sounds like an academic interest. In 'Listening', the sublimity of music is reduced to jingling couplets like 'what's as sweet as / Rosalyn Tureck singing Bach partitas?'

More successful are the poems in which his formalism is fitted to a tone pervasive in the volume: scepticism, ranging from the wry to the cynical. 'The Sceptic' taunts 'The people who discuss their other lives' like 'Small children with a box of dress-up clothes'; a remark of Karl Kraus ('All right, we can sleep together, but no intimacy!') prompts the reflection that 'His paradox / No longer ...


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