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This review is taken from PN Review 153, Volume 30 Number 1, September - October 2003.

THE INEXPRESSIBLE SOMEWHAT ADAM JOHNSON, Collected Poems, edited with an Afterword by Neil Powell (Carcanet) £12.95

Where can we go now we have gone too far?
Time overtakes us knowing all our destinations -
A cold chisel writing our names in stone.


So the concluding lines of 'Road to Arisaig', dated February 1989, some half-way through the run of poems which Neil Powell has put together from the dated copies Adam Johnson sent him. May 1985 starts the collection; April 1993 closes it. In those eight years a fastidious attention to his craft matched a sensibility whose capacity for love and understanding quite transcended the limitations of his early explorations and delineations of the homoerotic worlds in which he was, partly, at home. Born in 1965, he died of Aids in 1993. He was 28.

The last thing one thinks of in reading these poems is that 'cold chisel'. Though Adam Johnson was deeply aware of vanishings and the tender, quick precariousness of living, the quality which increasingly informs the poems in this Collected is the antithesis of weight and gloom. The disciplines which he welcomed left no room for self-pity. 'To keep the pattern true / I strive for clarity', as he has it in 'Making', his poem for Montana Silkwood, in which he sees all creative makers as being sharers in a community of those who understand the nature of giving 'All to the undertaking'. It was natural for him to give: poem after poem bears its dedication - for friends, for poets full of ...


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