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This review is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

THE FINISHED PICTURE ROY FISHER, The Dow Low Drop: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) £8.95
DESMOND GRAHAM, The Marching Bands (Seren) £5.95
TESS GALLAGHER, Portable Kisses (Bloodaxe) £7.95

With only seven new poems The Dow Low Drop is an attempt to reassert Roy Fisher's achievement rather than redefine it. His poetry is noted for its crisp, economic imagery and its figurative acrobatics. But it has been called 'difficult'.. This is perhaps because Fisher's non-satirical writing has always decoded experience with the utmost uncertainty. He writes to convince himself of each reality, scarring himself to prove each pain. But he still has doubts.

Even in his earliest, most confident poems Fisher needs to re-tune each picture before he loses it. In 'The Entertainment of War' he fixes on the death of relatives he hardly knew as something 'to keep the long story moving'. It concludes,

… had my belief in the fiction not been
   thus buoyed up
I might, in the sigh and strike of the
   next night's bombs
Have realised a little what they meant,
   and for the first time been afraid.

In the post-structuralist nightmare of the title poem, he doubts both the extra-linguistic world ('True nothing/needs hands to build its many forms') and the end-product of discourse ('So out of what materials/shall we be making/our nothing?'). All that is certain are the materials of language, the crafting hands and the urge to write. Deictics (positioning words) are a luxury his scepticism can barely afford. So many of his poems refuse to locate themselves in their opening lines. But their ...

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