Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 108, Volume 22 Number 4, March - April 1996.

M.R. PEACOCKE, Selves,(Peterloo Poets) £5.95
JENNY JOSEPH, Ghosts and Other Company (Bloodaxe)£6.95
CAROL RUMENS, Best China Sky (Bloodaxe) £6.95
LAWRENCE SAIL, Building into Air (Bloodaxe) £6.95

Ghosts seem to be in fashion. Both M.R. Peacocke in the title poem of Selves and Jenny Joseph in 'The Allotted Time' encounter them beside the road while driving. Joseph, whose book is largely a celebration of ghosts, asks some to dinner: 'Come and have dinner, ghosts, you would be welcome', while Carol Rumens extends an invitation to just one, that of Elizabeth Bishop:

You'd quickly feel at home, as guest, as
Pleased by the manner, more pleased to
A climate amiable, reserved, unfussed
And modern.

All three poets are well aware that they are dealing not merely with the past but with a traditional way of understanding it. In the twentieth century it was Yeats who most memorably offered hospitality to ghosts, and it is his delicately shaded tone (solemn-urbane, perhaps, or formal-colloquial) that Rumens catches so well in her piece. The rituals are ready when needed, in literature and in life. With the onset of winter, both Joseph and Peacocke feel a death poem coming on:

Bonfires, Hallowe'en past, children
   running through the streets,
Something stirring in the blood that
   makes us rise
And stand at the window, leaving the
   curtain ajar,
Expectant of something, watching,

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image