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This review is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

A LIFE'S WORK FLEUR ADCOCK, Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe) £10.95

Fleur Adcock's Poems 1960-2000 rises tidily out of the ashes of the OUP poetry list. Although neither 'collected' nor 'complete' appears in the title, Bloodaxe has given us, in effect, a life's work. Poems 1960-2000 will continue to define Adcock's considerable reputation.

A recent writing residency provides the volume with its coda of five-liners, simply grouped under the heading Kensington Gardens. These are new poems and being in situ one of them appropriately asks of Barrie's Pan, 'What was the creepiest thing about him?' Yet with their observations of bird life, encroaching environmental dangers, not to mention dilapidated parents, these final pieces also take us back to Looking Back (1997), Time Zones (1991), The Incident Book (1986) and earlier work besides.

Kensington Gardens part of its purpose, no doubt, was to bring us neatly to the end of the twentieth century - also acts as a signing off, Adcock's own 'This is the end, my friend'. We are, perhaps, pulled up by these declarations of finality. Is this really the moment the poet puts aside her pen? 'Checking Out', the penultimate poem, begins by reminding us of the poet's 'love affair with the natural world'. It's a love affair that can be traced right back to her work in the 1960s, in poems like 'For a Five- Year-Old' (which calls for kindness to snails), the unnerving, almost surreal 'Think Before You Shoot' and 'The Pangolin', a characteristic celebration of quirkiness which seems to take ...


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