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This review is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Cover of Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva
Rory WatermanPointed and Proportioned
Cathy Galvin, Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva (Guillemot) £7;
Christopher Reid, Not Funny Any More (Rack) £5;
Andrew McCulloch, The Lincolnshire Rising (Melos) £5
I consider myself something of a poetry pamphlet anorak, but I can’t define the format other than to say pamphlets are shorter than books, which doesn’t mean much. Are the three tiny volumes on which Philip Larkin’s reputation rests really pamphlets? No, they’re not, though all are under the thirty-six-page limit for eligibility for the Michael Marks Awards for poetry pamphlets. Sometimes, what makes a pamphlet stick is a thematic unity, though we are now in an age in which themed full-length collections have also become normal in Britain – which probably often has something to do with the academisation of poets and the exigencies of the Research Excellence Framework. In any case, a thematic focus is still more commonly a trait of pamphlets, and it is what I am going to focus on here.

I often think of pamphlets as spineless wares, but that would exclude Cathy Galvin’s beautifully-produced Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva, a numbered sequence, the subject of which you can probably work out. 180 lines of poetry are given a lot of page space here, as are Kristy Campbell’s attractive and incongruously modern and abstract illustrations, though their relationship to the text isn’t often clear. Nobody can know Coventry without knowing its terrifying ring road (‘There are no circles of hell, just this road’), its vanquished car industry, the concrete legacy of its near-annihilation in the Second World War, and behind all of that, the figure of Lady Godiva, the speaker’s companion in this set of ten poems. All of that ...


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