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

WASTE MANAGEMENT RICHARD BURNS, The Manager. A Poem (Elliott & Thompson) £13.99

Burns' long verse cycle The Manager is a picaresque pinballing through a post-Thatcherite wasteland that is today's Britain and the head of someone who can't take its pace. It begins by constructing an end-of-century Everyman through a series of quasi-'found' documents. Memos and horoscopes, say: '[...] Avoid making pledges, promises or vows. Lest untamed angels in disguise'; 'Try to enter your confidence [... ]' Or monologues and heard dialogues telling of bleak matrimonial Sundays and empty working weeks:

[...] Like Hey You Guys I Mean. We All Have The Right. To Survive. Make Ends Meet. Earn An Honest Buck Yen Mark Even Quid. Sheer Necessity Isn't It. So One Does Need To Make Allowances. And Of Course Perks. But why are they - or we -

All such arseholes?

The satire here admittedly skits an easy target - the crassness of post-Thatcherite Britain. And though the Manager's attempts at adulterous escape have a real erotic charge (to a hetero male, at any rate), the gender struggle Burns depicts has, to my mind, elements of mawkish machismo and even misogyny. But as his protagonist's world and sanity break down, Burns' narrative control gets firmer:
Weave Die egg nosed ass Haiku matty con Dish hunk cold Hiss tory list ness [...]

So ferrous Wean Owe, er Come plucks Ken Own lea bee Reel leak Concord if fix Left Outer the Fool. Soya Mist Writer Pulley Tinter yes Sent ...


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