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This review is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

HARM'S WAY ALAN JENKINS, Harm (Chatto) £6.99
PETER REDGROVE, My Father's Trapdoors (Cape) £7.00
JOHN BURNSIDE, The Myth of the Twin (Cape) £7.00
VICKI FEAVER, The Handless Maiden (Cape) £7.00
DAVID DABYDEEN, Tumer (Cape) £7.00

Honesty is a slippery policy, where poetry is concerned. W.B. Yeats was not in favour of it. Likewise, Auden, who, in granting our 'Os of passion… a drawing room of their own', won the reader's heart not simply as a sympathetic interior designer, but as the silent aesthetician of pillow-talk. Who wants those vocatives to be heard, worse, read aloud- And what does it say about you if you do- The terrible dazzle of that non-language, like the dazzle of first memories and the loss of family, cannot be re-evoked: by the time we think there might be a poem reflected in it, the ecstatic mirror has turned back to sand.

What the best love poetry and elegiac verse can do, is to show (not tell) how far the literary response falls short of the real thing: not simply as an inadequate expression of something inexplicable - all language struggles with that - but as a conscious act of substitution. Perhaps this is what the final couplet in John Clare's lyric, 'Love's Pains', means: 'I tried to throw away the bud/But the blossom would remain.' In other words, what's done is done: the passions which prompt poetry are obviously traduced by the verse itself. The next question must be: how honest, how uncompromising, is the betrayal- And on this count, as on many others, Alan Jenkins's third collection scores very highly.

Harm, in Jenkins' geography of moods, is a state you come to, or slip ...


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