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This review is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

Tricks and Translation nick laird, Go Giants (Faber and Faber) £12.99
david harsent, Night (Faber and Faber) £9.99
Raw Material (The Gallery Press) €11.95

The typical mode of Nick Laird's third book, Go Giants, involves juxtaposing a colloquial register with various esoteric or field-specific terms, utilising a relatively dense sound patterning founded primarily on vowel rhyme, and, in general, forming texts which gesture at an occluded narrative. The way the poems tend to create their meaning is through prompting the reader to search for the motivation the narrator might have had for bringing these specific things together in a poem. Frequently that reason has to do with the attempt to understand the place of the personal within larger systems of national and international politics. So far, then, so Muldoonish, so Armitagesque.

Given the book's formal heritage, it's unlikely that these poems will be interesting in terms of mode of expression alone; they take on their sheen of value when the too-familiar stylistic practice is put into a tension with the subject matter of the poems. So in 'Observance', Laird uses his set of tricks to make a poem about 'war', but also about the position of the first-world observer of war. 'Geronimo. Banzai. Tallyho. / There is no catchword I know / for the opposite of war', runs the second stanza; in spite of all of his extensive and exotic vocabulary, the poet is shifted by his language towards the acceptance of a constant warfare from which, for all that, he remains distanced. It also highlights the dissociative, slant way we approach violence depicted on television:

I watched the war supine

and saw the wars I watched

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