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This review is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

LYRIC URGES PETER DIDSBURY, That Old-Time Religion (Bloodaxe) £6.95
DENISE RILEY, Mop Mop Georgette (Reality Street Editions) £6.50
CHARLES MADGE, Of Love, Time and Places: Selected Poems (Anvil Press) £18.95
GRAHAM FULTON, Knights of the Lower Floors (Polygon) £6.95

Everywhere one looks in That Old-Time Religion one is drawn towards the middle. Chill and harsh, the collection opens on 'The Shore', 'A minute past noon/and deeply cold…'. 'Passing the Park' the poet notes a 'bright midwinter morning… just before lunch'. For the taut Edwardian types of 'At North Villa' it is, perpetually it seems, 'the middle of that morning'. And Satan ('The Devil on Holiday') is 'a worn-out guy in his middle forties/in 1940s America'. Likewise the poetry's characteristic situations - the shore, the park, the furniture store, 'our semi-industrial suburb' - locate the familiar territory of shared reference; a middle ground approached through both disembodied statements of fact ('deeply cold on the shore'), and personal expressions of experience ('I drive by the park'). Neither voice is entirely inappropriate, but surely, the collection wonders, something between the two would be more truthful. As with his previous collections (The Butchers of Hull and The Classical Farm), That Old-Time Religion is framed by two epigraphs. In this case we have Roy Fisher remarking that 'Things we make up out of language turn into common property', and Arthur Hugh Clough insisting that 'Still, individual culture is also something'. And it is precisely towards an utterance able to negotiate the space between these remarks, the space between public and private, that Didsbury's middles point.

Appropriately then, or is it predictably, one can hardly decide which, the emblem of Didsbury's relation to language in That Old-Time Religion is the hyphen. Indeed ...


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