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

ENERGIES HELEN KITSON, Love Among the Guilty (Bloodaxe) £6.95
FREDA DOWNIE, Collected Poems (Bloodaxe) £8.95
MATT SIMPSON, Catching Up With History (Bloodaxe) £6.95
STEWART CONN, In the Blood (Bloodaxe) £6.95

Love Among the Guilty by Helen Kitson contains just what the title suggests - poems about the seedier side of life and love. But if the strength of these poems is their gritty realism and potentially interesting subject matter, their weakness is clumsy and clichéd writing, so that while the starting point of a poem may be interesting, Kitson fails to make it come alive. Take 'Walls', a poem about somebody listening to the neighbours having sex: 'I turn down the TV volume/& listen to them./I'm a Peeping Tom, a dirty old man.!I'm at the wall with my glass…' These last three images have to be among the most tired and predictable in the Voyeurism Metaphor Catalogue. The narrator immediately fades to stereotype and loses our attention. Similarly, in 'Querty', Kitson adopts the persona of a secretary and then proceeds to be far more boring and obvious than any real life secretary I've ever met: 'Monday to Friday it's like this./I've a mortgage to pay & a mouth to feed.' In the poem 'Adultery', we are told: 'We do what we can/to keep them on the right track.!When he strays/it's her eyes you want to gouge out/because that's how things are.' True enough, but hardly well put. If the clumsiness of Kitson's prosodic style is an attempt to mirror the rough inadequacies of life, it doesn't do anything for the sound or rhythm of the poems. 'Stuffing up the plughole,/a disgusting mush of milky cornflakes/& her hair. She'll pull ...


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