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This review is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

WATERLAND MICK DELAP, River Turning Tidal (Lagan Press) £6.95

Mick Delap is a magma editor and some of the sharpness and clarity of that magazine carries over into this, his first collection, River Turning Tidal.

The opening poem, `Heron', is, for me, the most delightful, and the one most frequently requested at readings. Visually, the instructional use of the space bar in `the hunch and push, / hunch and push of a heron' is arresting, if distracting. When listening to the poem, the jerky rhythm still hits the ear, but seems naturally more at ease with the intent of the line. One of the wonders of this poem is how its straightforwardly pleasing last lines seem so perfectly to recall the unexpected stutter of `the hunch' by the use of more familiar tools: `this enduring heron draws tight/the burden of the day, lets go;/ draws tight, lets go'.

`Heron' encapsulates many of Delap's preoccupations in this volume: the move from `a childhood ditch in Donegal' to `Greenwich station'; the unifying, `enduring' wildlife; the pre-occupation with and love of words for their own sakes - `heron' becomes `gooleyflap' to a `doting father'; the Empsonian alertness to the possibility of a pun - spot the duck in `laboured strokes that puddle // Dockland'. But the pleasurable way Delap can stay just this side of sentimentality is not always achieved. The balance of `Heron' is its triumph. In other poems, Delap's technical assurance, his sensitivity to words comes too easily: too often he tends, not to move ...


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