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PN Review 275
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This review is taken from PN Review 275, Volume 50 Number 3, January - February 2024.

Cover of Viewer | Viewed
Ian SeedLucy Hamilton, Viewer | Viewed (Shearsman) £10.95
The Picture Refigured

Lucy Hamilton’s Viewer | Viewed comprises a series of poems written in long-lined couplets alongside a series of photomontages of herself, members of her family, friends, and objects such as flowers, letters, heirlooms, medieval images and snippets of literature. It is an endeavour which could so easily have fallen into cliché, sentimentality or over-abstraction in the hands of a lesser poet. As Hamilton herself admits, reflecting on the risks,
the poem depends| the verse suspended| all contingent
on the picture| A double act to find or fall| To hang
on the wall or abort| (‘Picture Not Found | Poem Not Housed’)
In her Preface, Hamilton explains that when a close friend unexpectedly died in 2014, she found herself ‘unable to write’ and thus ‘began making photomontages by hand as an alternative method of expression’. Her concern, she says, is ‘not / meaning not even aesthetic value’ but to ‘invite the tug // of juxtaposition’ (‘An Old Story’). This may have been a starting point for Hamilton, but it is clear that aesthetic value is in fact of prime importance in the crafting of these photomontages and poems.

The writer’s block that Hamilton describes may have also been due to something that most of us have difficulty with, namely stepping outside the set stories of our lives we so often tell ourselves. The use of collage, reinforced by the sheer physicality of cutting up materials and pasting them back together in new and strange ways, provides us with the means to reimagine our concept of ourselves ...

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