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

FATHERS AND TEACHERS MAURICE RUTHERFORD, Love is a Four-LetterWord (Peterloo) £6.95
BRIAN WALTHAM, Masterclass (Peterloo)£6.95

Echoes of Philip Larkin's work sound frequently in Maurice Rutherford's latest collection, providing some good parodies and pastiches (such as 'Rome is so Bad' which ends 'That Pope') and also being responsible for the real achievement in the collection 'The Autumn Outings', which uses the metre, form and tone of 'The Whitsun Weddings' to deal with issues of recession and unemployment. This is an ingenious, moving, and skilfully constructed poem which, with its references to 'True-blue disease', will no doubt have the Thatcherite Mr Larkin turning in his Arundel Tomb. At times, however, the shadow of Larkin looms so large that it threatens to swallow up a few of the poems entirely. For example 'The Watchers', with its image of a retirement home, seems rather too reminiscent of Larkin's 'The Old Fools': 'How will they ride out the waves, these old ones?… We shall see'. This may be a deliberate attempt at allusion (and allusion is used to good effect elsewhere in the collection) but it's hard to see what it adds to this particular poem. Still, this is a minor quibble which affects only a very small number of poems and one could hardly accuse Rutherford of possessing Larkin's dismal Weltanschauung. Take his approach to death in 'A Kind of Kindness': 'I see death only as an end of strife.!/My fears are not about the void beyond.' Moreover, there's plenty of humour in the collection, such as 'The Reading': 'The poem is born deformed.//His friend in the fourth ...


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