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

SEASICK GAVIN BANTOCK, SeaManShip (Anvil) £8.95

Gavin Bantock's long new poem has been gestating for more than twenty years. He refers to it in his brief introduction as `a kind of manifesto, a statement of what I believe', and adds that it is written `loosely in the form of a computer manual'.

The three words which combine to make the title, SeaManShip, are re-used as subtitles for the three main sections - `Sea', `Man' and `Ship': `"sea" to represent the natural world', explains Bantock, `"man" the human intellect, and "ship", man's inventions or the so-called artificial world.' Each section is in turn divided into three, and the resulting nine parts are each nine pages long, each page containing one long stanza with nine rhyming-words, the rhyme-pattern being ABC ACB CBA. This emphasis on structure makes the whole poem surprisingly readable: you never feel lost. On the other hand, considering the architectural rigour with which SeaManShip has been put together, the language and thinking are disappointingly flabby. Bantock's range is defined at one end by a kind of tongue-twisting clever-cleverness -

           ... however much
I come to know, I never know why
I know it, or know why I have come here,
learning how little I have come to know...

- and at the other, by pure gush: `... I remember how thrilling/it is simply to be alive, aye, even in the catacombs of sorrow.' If my count is correct, the word `aye' appears 26 ...


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