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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 118, Volume 24 Number 2, November - December 1997.

PSYCHIC REALITY HILARY DAVIES, In a Valley of This Restless Mind (Enitharmon) £7.95
LOTTE KRAMER, Selected and New Poems (Rockingham Press) £6.95
PHOEBE HESKETH A Box of Silver Birch (Enitharmon) £5.95

Three generations of women poets are represented here, none of them quite as widely celebrated as they should be. Hilary Davies, the youngest, has not set out for Planet Alice, but settled in that restless zone where 'the only great discussion / There can be, of first and last things' still rages. Hers is a collection of high seriousness: five sequences, each very distinctive, ranging from the enigmatic confessional of 'The Jacobean Mansion' and the dense, devotional quasi-sonnet cycle, 'The Stations of the Cross' to the title poem's twenty-seven dramatic monologues of Héloise and Abelard. There is something of Elizabeth Jennings here, even to the title of the most outstanding sequence, 'When the Animals Came' (The Animals' Arrival?) And as with Jennings, one is sometimes lost on the rarefied heights of the poet's spirituality, but this is such a well-constructed collection that human help is always on hand - so, the moving plainness of 'Elegy for Peter Hebblethwaite' follows the more unyielding 'Stations'. But it is the sequence about Paleolithic cave dwellers in the Valley of the Vézère which strikes me as the major achievement, indeed as one of the finest long poems I have read. Following their lives through the seasons, and providing a wonderful counterbalance to the book's Christian leanings, it rejoices in the physicality of existence BC - hunting ('it was as if the very tension / Of those minds placed there raised up a presence...), sex ('our coupling / A confluence of waters where the ...


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