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

PRIESTS OF THE INVISIBLE TONY LOPEZ, Data Shadow (Reality Street Editions) £6.50
ANDREW DUNCAN, Switching and Main Exchange (Shearsman Books) £6.50
ANDREW DUNCAN, Pauper Estate (Shearsman Books) £6.00
R.F. LANGLEY, Collected Poems (Carcanet) £6.95
BRIAN HENRY, Astronaut (Arc Publications)

Tony Lopez casts his Data Shadow in fifty sonnets, graphically arranged to resemble a series of bar-codes running across each page, ready for scanning. These taut and disciplined poems are the `tiny virtual space(s)' to which Lopez refers in his preface to the volume, the regular frames for his original and probing poetic voice. Lopez extends his perceptive feelers into a dark reality many of us may not have been aware of - the world of the `data shadow', the electronic trace of our being in the world. Every `Reward Card' scanned at Sainsbury's not only collects points for its owner but also records habits and preferences. People's daily transactions and private thoughts leave an effluence of information behind them. Lopez interrogates this lost language to brilliant effect, managing to transubstantiate the commonplace in creating both a hymn and a lament for today's consumer culture. Readers are left with the feeling of possessing a new, laser vision.

The sequence of fifty sonnets is broken down into five sections, each comprising ten sonnets, suggesting the endlessly divisible decisions of the consumer's daily existence. The reader is welcomed to a world in which notions of community are tied to brand loyalty and the individual imagination becomes only data for consumption. There is a playful irony in Lopez's tale of purchases, insurance risks, consumer complaints, credit references and medical records. Snippets of commercial breaks, lonely hearts columns and film credits echo through the tightly-structured verse, producing regular jolts of recognition ...


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