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This review is taken from PN Review 222, Volume 41 Number 4, March - April 2015.

Between Cup and Lip lee harwood, The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon) £8.99

Lee Harwood is still asking all the questions in his first major collection since his Collected Poems in 2004. He might seem a reliable guide as he leads you gently into the poems, but before you know it he has slipped off into the margins, leaving a reader wondering what is going on. Times and places that seem certain, and speaking voices that have given you reassurance, become elusive, dancing just out of reach. His poems, deceptively simple, have the quality of dreams that you can’t quite grasp.

I should have been warned. The opening poem is called ‘Departures’ and it is the voice of the speaking subject that departs. The poem begins with a suggestion of presence in typical Harwood country where it is a ‘Hot summer night, / the sound of rain in the courtyard’. But we are not to remain in this location for long. ‘A satin breeze    sways the curtains’, and it is in the combination of that swaying curtain, revealing and concealing something, and the aporia opened up by the long pause in the middle of the line indicated by the space between the phrases, that somewhere else emerges.

And the place we are taken to is a textual one as well as a physical one. It is to the writing of another, indicated by ‘She wrote’, a writing that has a deep sensual physicality. Placed within quotation marks, ‘she’ writes ‘“Gently I open / my silk dress and float alone / on the orchid boat. Who can / take a letter beyond the clouds?”’. ...


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