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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

DESCRIBING AND LISTENING Nigel Jenkins, Song and Dance (Poetry Wales Press) £1.95
Mike Jenkins, The Common Land (Poetry Wales Press) £1.95
John Cotton, Day Book: Fragments 1-32 (Priapus Press) n.p.
John Cotton, The Totleigh Riddles (Priapus Press) n.p.
Nicki Jackowska, The Knot Garden (Priapus Press) n.p.
Fred Sedgwick, From Another Part of the Island (Priapus Press) n.p.
Wall, poems by Roger Garfitt, Frances Horovitz, Richard Kell, Rodney Pybus; art work by Noel Connor, Simon McRoyall, Margaret Ochocki, Paul Stangroom (LYC Press, Banks, Brampton, Cumbria) £2.00
Brian Louis Pearce, The Vision of Piers Librarian (Woodruff Press) £1.20
Derek Bourne-Jones, Floating Reefs (Downlander Publishing) £3.00

The first three poems of Nigel Jenkins's Song and Dance use the word 'silence' at crucial moments; further in the volume he writes 'To describe is to listen', and throughout the book we sense the poet's mind waiting in alert passivity for whatever the world's 'silence' may disclose. In a poem on an ancient skeleton he writes about the dead man's intelligence,


it's this softer thing-finer
than a flint's edge, tougher than a stone-
that fashions amazement, keeps us guessing.


That 'guessing' is typical of Jenkins's work, both in its statement of receptive uncertainty towards the poem's elusive subject and in its precise colloquialism. The best of these poems have an edgy need to define what is elusive that is very reminiscent of Thom Gunn's free-verse. Not every poem quite comes off, but the good poems compel attention and respect.

Mike Jenkins, the author of The Common Land, is younger than his compatriot and not so accomplished. This is not to deny that he has talent-talent flashes out frequently from these pages, only to be obliterated by the received cant of what constitutes a good modern poem. His work is larded with portentous detail and unnecessarily 'concrete' language: most of all it is smothered in similes-there are only two poems (out of thirty) that do not contain the word 'like' to introduce a simile, and most contain it more than once. This is poetry by recipe-take two ...


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