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This review is taken from PN Review 119, Volume 24 Number 3, January - February 1998.

RHETORICAL QUESTIONS JENNY JOSEPH, Extended Similes (Bloodaxe) £9.95
MARTYN CRUCEFIX, A Madder Ghost (Enitharmon) £7.95
PETER REDGROVE, Orchard End (Stride) £7.50
IMTIAZ DHARKER, Postcards from God (Bloodaxe) £8.95

One might wish for a British Library Catalogue description on the inside cover of Jenny Joseph's latest work, on the basis that if you have a map, the territory is easier to negotiate. Extended Similes might at first look like a work that has borrowed the various camouflages of its parent-genres, and cannot be quite pinned down. It looks like prose, comes over like fiction, but depends on the economies and textures of poetry. The list of acknowledgements refers to them as 'pieces', and perhaps that is what they are. But quite what they add up to, and what exactly we are to call the product of a work that is prefaced by seventeen quotations (ranging from horticultural programmes to Henry Moore to Primo Levi), is difficult to define.

The style is manifold. Short bursts of technical language that read like professional manuals throw the lyrical grace of the more consciously 'poetic' pieces. 'Malaria', for example, tells us, rather coldbloodedly that: 'Morbific exhalations arising from swamps or effluvia from the decomposition of animal or vegetable matter give the disease its name.' It's a risky opening, and would probably repel more readers than the idea of compulsory vaccination, were it not that it comes almost two-thirds of the way into the book, and by then, Joseph has already won our confidence. More common are the narratives - short, short stories which usually centre on a particular action, situation or mood - returning from the shops, going for a ...


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