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This review is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

GOING SOMEWHERE TOM PAULIN, Walking a Line (Faber) £5.99
PETER SANSOM, January (Carcanet) £6.95
JON GLOVER, To the Niagara Frontier (Carcanet) £8.95
HUGO WILLIAMS, Dock Leaves (Faber) £5.99

'The perfect collection for summer reading' is how the Faber and Faber press release cheerfully domesticates Tom Paulin's Walking a Line. It is a pleasure - for a taste for wilful irritation is almost essential to an enjoyment of Paulin's poetry and criticism - to imagine the author's splenetic reaction to such defining banalities. For a long while though, the old indsive tetchiness seems almost absent from this new book. Paulin has become middle-aged, produdng a more vulnerable personal verse which sometimes veers, as in 'Linda Nicklin' into the pessimistic 'middle England stasis' of Larkin country. Poems are more loosely structured than before, with shorter lines and a democratic absence of punctuation. This general airiness adds a considerable shock value to the frequent use of successive, snapping adjectives, as in 'Painting With Sawdust' which gives us an almost Burnsian description of the sound of a working saw, the noise that '- the big thrawn toothy rather tinny knife/must make'.

Such moments of lyridsm aside, these poems are marked by a deliberately colloquial language, a vigorously adolescent sexual vocabulary. The fact that many of the pieces here maintain a literary or cultural focus leave little doubt as to who this blunt new persona is really for. When a poem resolves itself in Heidegger's 'acquittal/behind this text and that text" or 'that tight terrible hollowlin Gibbon's prose style', it is really down to Paulin's professional skill to convince us that this is not merely reductive abstraction. The challenge is ...


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