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

NO, SOMETHING STILL HAS TO HAPPEN Hyphen: An Anthology of Short Stories by Poets, edited by Ra Page (Comma Press) £7.95

My friends the short story writers do say writing one is like writing a poem. Stressing that what they strive for is `a form, a shape, a performance of something', reminding me of the primacy of the voice, citing the essential quick stab brevity and vividness, they do manage to convince me that there is much that is analogous between what stubbornly remain, to me, quite discrete disciplines. Or this is what this interesting experiment wherein poets have been invited to essay short prose fiction seems to prove.

If you are a fine poet you just might - like, say, Sophie Hannah, Matthew Francis, Grevel Lindop - also have a real flair for the necessary: the completed dramatic action, the single controlling idea, the succinct and telling dialogue, the essential humour, the irony, the narrative imperative, the detachment.

On the other hand, similar territory as that she explores to such great effect in so much of her poetry makes hideously flabby and flaccid reading in Ruth Padel's po-faced and interminable `We Are So Fab We Said All The Right Things'. Too excruciatingly transparent an alter-ego altogether, one feels, is the endlessly self-congratulatory Ann, `a ballad singer' whose songs about her married lover have proved, in performance, all too recognisable to the wife who's rumbled her and is cutting up rough for Christmas. Embarrassingly, (too much information!) one can't help but picture some real-life guy cringing over this public pillory of his impotence and his egotism, ...


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