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This review is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

A STRONG BROWN GOD JANE DRAYCOTT, Tideway, illustrated by Peter Hay (Two Rivers Press) £8.00 pb
PETER PORTER, SEAN O'BRIEN and JOHN KINSELLA, Rivers (Fremantle Arts Centre Press) $21.95 pb

John Kinsella sets out the claims of Rivers in his foreword - `rivers', he writes, `bind life together across continents... Rivers is a book of movement, a book of cultural change; replacement, loss, growth, destruction and discovery. Beginnings and ends. A way of speaking across cultures, across gaps in a culture.' This is no mere poetry collection: it is `the rivers project'. And yet, although the heavy-handedness invites scepticism (what isn't included in the rivers project?) rivers are inescapably metaphors, both channels and barriers, untrammelled nature and the ancient companions of human settlement, flowing from mysterious source to mysterious dispersion in the open sea. `It is essential', writes Kinsella, `that the message of the river is heard', but a river's meaning, Jane Draycott reminds us, is not as easily interpreted as poets may believe. Forget metaphors, you need training and experience: `You're piloting a ship in Barking Creek at two o'clock in the morning in the pitch black and you can't see where you're going... But we're the ones who know how to do it,' says one of the watermen whose voices echo through Tideway. `Ink comes in on the tide... Witnesses crowd
the courtyard in pairs, details are lost in the rain... That blind old allegory the Thames refuses to speak' (`Public Records Office'). Draycott's river is dark, deep and secretive, a place of treacherous currents and marshes, but a place that is both narrative and community to those who have learned its language:


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