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This review is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

BEYOND LOCAL BORDERS Medbh McGuckian, Marconi's Cottage (Bloodaxe Books) £6.95
Simon Armitage, Xanadu (Bloodaxe Books) £5.95
Peter Dale, Earth Light (Hippopotamus Press) £12.95
William Scammell, Bleeding Heart Yard (Peterloo Poets) £6.95
U.A. Fanthorpe, Neck-Verse (Peterloo Poets) £6.95
Sebastian Barker, The Dream of Intelligence (Littlewood Arc) £15.95

Medbh McGuckian's placing at the end of The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry seems emblematic of that anthology's concern 'to extend the imaginative franchise'. It has certainly proved to be prescient of the extraordinary upsurge of activity by women poets in the '80s. However, Morrison and Motion's placing of her with the Martians was not only symptomatic of their introduction's overall inexactitude: it also erected a barrier to a better understanding of her work. Several recent commentators have pointed to a continuing Russian influence which suggests that McGuckian may be more closely allied with poetry that has looked outside Anglocentric culture for inspiration.

Marconi's Cottage is much more accessible than her previous collections. Her habitual interest in the symbiosis as opposed to conflict between male and female principles is here combined with a definite narrative of birth and motherhood. This may in itself explain why the work seems clearer than before. The voice is still instantly recognizable -
       
A timeless winter
That wants to be now
Will go on taking shape in me.
Now everything can begin.
'Turning the Moon into a Verb'


- but the book is full of statements like 'I have grown inside words/Into a state of unbornness' and 'I was shorn/Of all words, and hummed … with my eyes and mouth' which in McGuckian's terms amount to a positive manifesto. Like Michele Roberts and Selima Hill, McGuckian represents a coming to ...


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