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This review is taken from PN Review 265, Volume 48 Number 5, May - June 2022.

Cover of Eat Here, Get Gas & Worms
Alan MuntonA Great Love of Fleas
Steve Spence, How The Light Changes (Shearsman) £10.95; Steve Spence, Eat Here, Get Gas & Worms (Red Ceilings Press) £8.00
The sentences in these poems do not follow from each other. This does not make things easy for the reader, but it sets up a vital relationship between the text and the hopeful interpreter. Here is an example of what the reader has to confront, from a poem entitled ‘Contorting The Clouds’ (which nowhere mentions clouds):
‘It’s a virus that’s spreading,’ he said.
Truth has become a matter of opinion
but gravity is still gravity and it’s a

symptom of a failing education system.
Yet the dragonfly is a beautiful beast
and infinity remains an extraordinary

and puzzling concept. [….] Would you carry
out surgery on yourself in order to survive?
(How The Light Changes, p.40)
My reason for choosing a poem with that first line will be obvious enough; but it was written in 2017 or before; this is not post-Covid writing, although Covid gives it meaning – to which we can add the striking perception here that for too many people the truth about the pandemic is indeed a matter of opinion. But what does gravity, a failing education system, a dragonfly and infinity have to do with a virus? And what is the effect of the sudden arrival of a potentially cut up body?

An immediate answer is: nothing. These entities simply do not belong together. The poems challenge meaning when continuity is actively denied. This becomes a challenge to our idea of a poem. Spence has been writing in this way since his first book in 2010, A Curious Shipwreck, which was shortlisted for the ...

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