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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 119, Volume 24 Number 3, January - February 1998.

SHARED GROUND ANNE CLUYSENAAR, Timeslips (Carcanet) £8.95

A good collection of poems, written over a number of years, is likely to contain - however obliquely it may be expressed - both a personal life story and a life philosophy or view of the human situation. It will be, moreover, in its use and treatment of language that what is most truly distinctive about it is to be found. This is true of Anne Cluysenaar's Timeslips: New & Selected Poems, which gathers together work from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. It is a substantial and various collection which contains a verse libretto for a one-scene opera and other 'Words for Music', occasional poems, and 'Poems based on Visual Materials', as well as several long sequences. Of the latter three groups of poems have been taken from Double Helix (1982) the book in which Cluysenaar published poems alongside her mother's memoirs. In two major new sequences, 'Timeslips' and 'Vaughan Variations', and especially in the latter, she has realised her most ambitious work to date.

Double Helix, with its juxtapositions of different people's experiences, and exploration of the ground that lies between them, defined Cluysenaar's concerns, which her later poems pursue in finer detail and on a larger scale. In 'To the Reader', with which she prefaced that book, she said that, reading her mother's memoirs after her death, she was astonished 'at the way a simple language of natural signs can survive the changing generations and acquire meanings which everyday language seldom embodies. I think that ...


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