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This review is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.

NOT FOR COMFORT Fleur Adcock, The Inner Harbour (Oxford UP) £2.75
Fleur Adcock, Below Loughrigg (Bloodaxe Books, 1 North Jesmond Avenue, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 3JX) £0.75

These publications by Fleur Adcock-her fifth collection and a pamphlet of poems written during a year in Ambleside on a Creative Writing Fellowship-confirm one's sense of her work's characteristic strengths and weaknesses. As evident as ever is precision of local detail, particularly in evoking the sensations of lush, oppressive summers. She shows an attractive, dry humour -about the quirks and vanities of poets, for instance-that is sometimes more clearly self-directed, as in 'Things':


There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and
      worse.


The décor of that ending might appear to be out of Plath (just as Plath's mannequins are reminiscent of a Chirico painting), but the blend of wry self-mockery and disquiet-the latter authenticated by the presence of the former-is Adcock's own.

As in earlier volumes, a fair number of poems here are shaky individually; but Adcock is a writer of cumulative effect, and even the unsuccessful pieces contribute to the impression of a distinctive voice, a tone of controlled unease, of hesitant aspiration. Her habitual subjects are such as are usually (and vaguely) termed 'domestic', and our associative processes tend-not altogether ...


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