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This review is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

UNEXPECTED FANTASIES CATHERINE SMITH, The Butcher's Hands (Smith/Doorstop) £6.95
NAOMI JAFFA, The Last Hour of Sleep (Five Leaves) £4.50
DEAN PARKIN, Irresistible to Women (The Garlic Press) £3.50

The first thing you notice about Catherine's Smith's poems is the forensic detail she uses to explore suburban living, rather like the souvenirs one of her characters steals in the poem, `Keepsakes': `a marble from the solitaire board,/ the innards of his pen, a sock, yellowed with sweat... used plasters from the heels of his trainers...' Her imaginative drive comes from these characters, whom Smith uses to invade conventional reality and alter it. She does this in the poem, `Personae': `Today Mrs West is being Queen Victoria...' and her cast is impressively varied - from postulant to vengeful dead wife, mother to pervert. In `Cast', she puts famous actors in a supermarket, in `The New Bride', a replaced dead wife provides a cynical commentary on her husband's `weeper and wailer'.

Smith's unexpected fantasies of ordinary people generate an impression of an out-of-control other world, sometimes funny, sometimes sinister, which could take over at any time, as it does in Reunion, Zennor Coastal Path when a couple meet their younger selves. Her poems suggest, though, spirituality is rather more difficult to locate. In `Revelation', the character literally has to skin herself to find light and freedom and in the brilliantly ironic `Soul', the soul is `an ugly mongrel (part terrier), with a penchant/ for wine gums and shagging strangers' ankles...' The poem `Fellatio' will change your attitude to pasta for ever with its clever appropriation of the language of food. But I think Smith is suggesting in this ...


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