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This review is taken from PN Review 106, Volume 22 Number 2, November - December 1995.

STEPPING OUT Anvil New Poets 2 edited by Carol Ann Duffy (Anvil) £8.95
Flambard New Poets (Flambard) £7.95
The Stumbling Dance edited by Rupert M. Loydell (Stride) £9.50
The Writing Path 1: Poetry and Prose from Writers' Conferences edited by Michael Petit (University of Iowa Press) £13.95
Salute to Outposts edited by Wolfgang Görtschacher, James Hogg & Roland John (University of Salzburg) £9.95

This is not, I know, a respectable critical position: but I'm fed up with two sorts of poem, and both of them are in Anvil New Poets 2. One of them begins something-well, exactly - like this: 'Under the 40 watt bulb the plastic kettle bubbles/along to a scratched Patsy Cline…'. In a line and a half, it has already made its point three times: the bulb is 40 watt, the kettle plastic, the pop record scratched. Its author (Colette Bryce) is trying to construct a poem which is like a documentary film or a grainy newspaper photograph, forgetting that a poet is not a camera, nor a tape-recorder, but something more complicated than either. This piece, called 'Buster', ends with the eponymous drunk 'cursing the ups and downs of the fuckin' floor'. Whether we're to feel pity or contempt, or perhaps to reproach ourselves for our own comparatively sober lives, is unclear: the reader is merely a helpless, unenlightened voyeur.

The other starts: 'You left your bike when you left me,/chained to the tree outside in the street…'. This is blokeish no-nonsense stuff (the bloke is called Mike Venner), which briskly skims over the syntactical likelihood that he, not the bike, is chained to the tree: it also explains, and arguably exhausts, the poem's main image within two lines. But the real difficulty with this tone is that, once established, it slides into cringing, self-deprecating bathos: 'You had my socks, you took the stereo,/I'm left with ...

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