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This review is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Cover of Hoard
Sue LeighCurrencies
Fleur Adcock, Hoard (Bloodaxe) £9.95
The cover of Fleur Adcock’s latest book (Samuel Palmer’s burgeoning golden apple tree) and its title evoke richness, plenty. As the back cover blurb explains, these are poems that have been hoarded away for some years and have now been brought to light. The title also recalls the Anglo-Saxon kenning wordhord – that storehouse of language that is the poet’s stock-in-trade.

‘Loot’, the first of the fifty poems (which are arranged in four sections) revisits a personal coin collection. Of a Coventry halfpenny the poet writes, ‘I used to see it in the hand of Pepys’ and imagines it jingling in a pocket with a farthing, a silver groat. The slow accumulation of coins might not be that dissimilar to the gathering of poems – ‘one delicious coin after another, / in […] unheard of currencies’. Other poems in this section relate to the writer’s art, including ‘Six Typewriters’ and the delightful ‘Her Usual Hand’: ‘If handwriting mirrors character / all I can see mine reflecting is / my headlong scramble for the exit, / shouting something over my shoulder.’

These three poems are typical of many in their conversational ease and autobiographical content. Adcock is fascinated by the past and her ancestors. In ‘Mother’s Knee’ she recalls family stories about children – ‘no dates, no writing’. With the benefit of hindsight, she reveals a darker fate for one child but offers: ‘You surely can’t like that knowing that? Better / to leave her in 1880-something / prancing in Slippery Creek in her shift’. In her darkly strange poem ‘A ...

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