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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

Cover of Company
Bebe AshleyZoë Skoulding, A Marginal Sea (Carcanet) £11.99; Tom French, Company (Gallery Press) £12.95
Into Sight

In Zoë Skoulding’s A Marginal Sea, there is some comfort to be found in reminding ourselves ‘we are where we are’ (‘A Short Presentation on the Current Direction of Travel’) while dreaming of a world slightly further away, or out of reach, from the coastal vantage point much of the book is written from, Ynys Môn. Recently shortlisted for the 2023 Wales Poetry Book of the Year Award, A Marginal Sea, with its vibrancy of language, transports readers to new perspectives: ‘the grip of morning / never lets you down / carries you into / high wires of pines / their vertical tang’ (Red Squirrels in Coed Cyrnol) where even the things in the shadows or ‘beyond the island’s lunar edges’ are drawn into sight.

Perspective is a fundamental aspect of play throughout Skoulding’s work. In ‘Gullscape’, a poem which takes its title from a painting by Roy Lichtenstein, Skoulding asks, ‘HOW FAR CAN YOU SEE / from the same place / daily wheeling / around the town’. There is humour here, in how long an inanimate object like a painting can show you the same view, but sadness too, in how quickly monotony and routine overshadow the things on the periphery and the just beyond.

Tangible landscapes are beautifully created at height but further excel at sea level: ‘feet slide on sand and small roots / off the edge of a map where land is / churned to wave form under wind’ (‘Newborough Warren with Map of Havana’), as light and sound give way to texture that feels ...

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