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This review is taken from PN Review 103, Volume 21 Number 5, May - June 1995.

READING KINSELLA THOMAS KINSELLA, From Centre City, (Oxford University Press) £7.99 pb

I began reading Kinsella from the wrong end, starting with his latest book instead of his first. Inevitably this has influenced my judgement of him, and it's unfortunate because on the whole I don't like it. Since then, I have read other books, and feel I understand him better and admire him more, but my view of From Centre City has not changed. For me, its dominant modes are satire and public poetry, its key poem 'One Fond Embrace'. If I had come to the book by way of others, or if I had read other critics beforehand, I might have viewed it differently. But my Kinsella starts here.

'One Fond Embrace' is satire, but not in the Spitting Image sense. It's aware of the genre's ancient roots and has an inherent classicism, formal, dignified and tending to abstraction. The narrator reviews the characters of his friends in a series of highly stylized epigrams:
 

You, peremptory and commanding so
  long ago,
that so swiftly and methodically
discovered your limits.

You, so hesitant, so soon presumptuous,
urgent and confiding, breathing close
about nothing.

You, insistent, weak-smiling,
employing tedium to persuade,
vanishing when satisfied.


The list goes on for a couple of pages, and when the 'you's have been exhausted, the poet constructs a new list based on 'one's:
 

remembering one unnatural

...


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