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This review is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

Cover of The Years
Paul McLoughlinShowing What’s Noticed: Three Chapbooks
The Years, Jamie McKendrick (Arc Publications) £8
Archway Sonnets, Kate Bingham (New Walk Editions) £5
Fighters, Losers, Declan Ryan (New Walk Editions) £5
The Years opens with a pair of unrhymed sonnets, the second of which sets out with a fine addition to my cache of favourite line breaks: ‘A life of doing nothing is a life / well-lived’ (which is almost as good as Bernard O’Donoghue’s ‘These days what fills me with the greatest / Sense of achievement is getting out / Of doing things’, from another poem on ageing). McKendrick’s poem is called ‘Doing Nothing’, a reversal of the opening ‘Nothing Doing’ in which a heron gazes with ‘sheer disgust’ at the water in a pool ‘left undrained to shiver through the winter’ where ‘nothing moves that’s worth a sprat’. In the sestet, the poet-speaker, whose ‘quiff quivers’ and whose ‘beak / is sharp as a tack’ shows that he not only empathises with but has become the heron. The turn gives us access to this metamorphosis: ‘I know the feeling … The world is a con’. This is a poet enjoying himself, his cleverness a delight, as is that of John Fuller, to whom O’Donoghue’s poem, ‘Getting Out’, is dedicated.     

The ‘thurn-harrier’ in the hybrid sonnet-villanelle of that name is a ‘bailiff beetle’ that earns its ‘hire’ evicting a mythical-fictitious creature (the thurn) by harrying it from its home. Once again the anthropomorphic-personification palimpsest is evident when the thurn stuffs ‘pamphlets in his case’, including, perhaps, the one we are reading. Perhaps again, ‘The Lion-Tree’, issuing from a mention in Pliny the Elder and looking nothing like a lion, is extinct because it grew ‘tired of its existence’; a suicidal tree that leads us to Granada’s ‘Court of ...


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