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This review is taken from PN Review 143, Volume 28 Number 3, January - February 2002.

BRASS AND MUCK ALLEN CURNOW, The Bells of Saint Babels: Poems 19972001 (Carcanet) £6.95
RICHARD REEVE, Dialectic of Mud (Auckland University Press)

In a recent television programme examining the scientific arguments for and against the presence of God, a well-known trompe-l'oeil was shown: four black circles with slices missing are so arranged that it appears there is a white square floating between them. The example shows how humans are natural pattern makers, and postulates the wider idea that our sense of God is, perhaps, much like that white square: an unavoidable result of the natural arrangement of things.

I note this because, in a similar way, Allen Curnow's collection brings disparate subject matter together to elicit surprising responses and patterns. In 'The Upas Tree', Curnow writes of the biocidal power of the infamous tree Pushkin, among others, wrote of:

and that power made
him such murderous missiles
as devastated
neighbouring realms
and subjected
them and their peoples
by life's death-dealing arts.

That I read this in the week of the terrorist attack on New York, with all the subsequent discussions of terrorist germ warfare, only brought the pattern-making of my mind further to the foreground.

In the same television programme, it was postulated that Intercessional Prayer - praying for the sick and suffering - has been proven to have a tangible effect, beyond that of placebo, in the recovery of hospital patients. In 'The Cake Uncut' Curnow writes:

We're very religious
people. We sing,

we pray to God

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