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This review is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

Cover of The Magic Door
Ian BrintonReading in the Open Air
Chris Torrance, (Test Centre) £30
The opening sentence of Charles Olson’s Call me Ishmael is central to an understanding of the wide-ranging poetry written by Chris Torrance, British poet who was born in Edinburgh, raised in Surrey and who moved to an isolated cottage in the Upper Neath Valley in South Wales nearly fifty years ago: ‘I take space to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom cave to now. I spell it large because it comes large here. Large, and without mercy.’

Writing on the back cover of Torrance’s first collection of poems, Green, Orange, Purple, Red (published by Andrew Crozier’s Ferry Press in 1968), Lee Harwood had alerted readers to this poet’s awareness of the outside world as we look from side to side, trying to take in every detail in the whole limitless visual experience waiting there. It comes therefore as no surprise that the dedicatory lines at the opening of Book One of The Magic Door should refer to Harwood, amongst other poets ‘opening each other’s doors’. Throughout the four-hundred pages of this new publication of a major cycle of poems British poets rub shoulders with phantasmagorical appearances from Welsh mythological history; Iain Sinclair and Barry MacSweeney share ground with the kingdom of Brycheiniog as Chris Torrance’s imaginative vision ranges from a world of the ‘Celtic Church cut off from Rome 150 years / on the Western fringes of the dissociating empire’ to his own residence in the house of stone ‘stuck / like a worn & stubborn thumb / in the Glen of ...


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