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This review is taken from PN Review 141, Volume 28 Number 1, September - October 2001.

NATURAL HABITAT NINA BOGIN, The Winter Orchards (Anvil) £7.95

'Uniting the poems is a common thread,' writes Nina Bogin on the back cover, 'the natural world and its impenetrable presence.' In this collection of mostly short poems, she treads her adoptive French countryside with a dowser's focused sensibility, her 'uneasy awareness' so attuned to the natural features that these become the very stuff of her consciousness - of landscape and people alike. Caught in the weave of acute images ('damp wind ticking the branches') and clear, simple diction are troubled questions - either overtly interrogative or else a watermark behind the lines - on love and loss, and human fragility; if the overall impression is one of equilibrium and affirmation, it is hard-won.

The first two of the book's three sections are, in my view, the most successful overall, notably the poems that relate to the world of nature - usually local, but also in parts of Sweden and America. Quiet, intent observations are honed into spare lines, often arranged in couplets: 'I walk through ruts, / tracks, crisscrossings of purpose: // the roe deer, at the field edge, / her lifted profile delicate as lace' ('Between Fields'). The natural world, with its coded self-sufficiency and knowledge ('They know'), both compels the poet and excludes her. Where the roe deer, the four hawks and the 'careful crow' have, respectively, 'her wood', 'their copse', 'its apple tree', she is a spectral presence, evinced only by the writing of the poem. And for the horses that seem to ...


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