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This review is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

DARK HORSES JEAN EARLE, The Sun in the West (Seren) £5.95
CHRISTINE EVANS, Island of Dark Horses (Seren) £5.95
MARTIN STANNARD, A Hundred Of Happiness and Other Poems (Smith/Doorstep) £6.95
Gerald Dawe, Heart of Hearts (The Gallery Press) £5.95
PEARSE HUTCHINSON, Barnsley Main Seam (The Gallery Press) £6.95

Jean Earle's gently lyrical poems take as their main subject the experience of old age. This is approached in a variety of ways. Some poems, such as 'Cardiac Examination', 'Graffiti', and 'Infiltrations from the Media' centre around unmistakably contemporary events while others, for example, 'Sir Bedivere's Horse', derive from semi-mythological sources such as the Morte d'Arthur or from the poet's own earlier life.

Earle seems definitely more at home in the gentler worlds, those of the countryside and the past. In many poems she writes with deftness and assurance, but there is a slight lack of overall pressure behind her choice of word and image:
 
Eyes without glasses see the world
Not as it is but as it was.
They find redundant, soft
Still-wild places. Their old age
Is bold as brass.


While there are no doubt many who would find this relaxation a positive virtue, I myself found the poems in The Sun in the West frus-tratingly evanescent.

Christine Evans' collection, Island of Dark Horses, concerns itself exclusively with the sea-enclosed, sea-dominated world of Bardsey Island (Ynys), situated off the coast of North Wales. The collection, at its strongest, concentrates intensely on the natural life of the island:
 
There are times in summer
when the ebb-tide, even here,
slows, heavily with reflected sweetness
in the fissures it has sucked out
on the west. when hayfields
...


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