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This review is taken from PN Review 158, Volume 30 Number 6, July - August 2004.

MIDWAY ALONG THE JOURNEY JACKIE WILLS, Fever Tree (Arc) £6.95
ROSE FLINT, Nekyia (Stride), £8.50
MICHAEL MURPHY, Elsewhere (Shoestring Press) £7.95

In Fever Tree, Jackie Wills presents a record of personal journeys through landscape, memory and imagination. While some poems have enticingly exotic locations, many are based within the ordinary world of family.

Wills is lauded for her precise observation, as if keenness of perception were not the sine qua non of every good poet. `Half-Term' is well-observed with its homely Heinz soup but beyond this what makes a good poem of it? Written out in prose it gains from the exchange, becoming an observant piece of journalism, rather than a flat-falling poem. The child-Wills makes a model aeroplane and `Wait(s) for it to move'; unfortunately, the reader ends up feeling the same way about the book.

Wills lacks energy and sufficient interest here. Fever Tree is a perplexing choice of title when one suspects that the poet herself works up more of a sweat mopping the kitchen floor. She fails to convince the reader that she believes in these poems. Several poems lack heart whilst offering nothing in its stead. The blurb asserts that her poems are `lyrical and humane meditations on the possibilities of life, love and death' and one wishes this were so.

Wills is given to the all-important final line which gives the impression that she writes this first, while the body of the poem is an exercise in how to get there. There is no sense of honest exploration; Wills appears a traveller who forms her conclusions before setting ...


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