PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Monthly Carcanet Books
Gratis Ad 1
Next Issue Helene Cixous We Defy Augury Carola Luther From ‘Letter to Rasool’ Sarah Rothenberg Ashberyana Jena Schmidt The Many-Faced Lola Ridge Helen Tookey Almost Drowning

This review is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

EVERYDAY MIRACLES DENNIS O' DRISCOLL: The Bottom Line, (The Dedalus Press) £4.95
HELEN DUNMORE: Recovering a Body, (Bloodaxe) £6.95
KATHLEEN JAMIE: The Queen of Sheba, (Bloodaxe) £6.95
ELEANOR COOKE: Secret Files, (Cape) £7.00

I read Dennis O'Driscoll's The Bottom Line in the train on the way to work. This was appropriate because it deals with office life, a subject usually ignored by poets. Business is something of a blind spot in contemporary culture, no doubt because most writers and artists have got where they are by a determination to avoid it. And yet offices are fascinating places.

The fifty poems are written in an 11-line monologue form which reads sometimes like an extended haiku, sometimes like a shortened free-verse sonnet. One might call them poetic memos. There are, apparently, several speakers, (and a few poems are in the second person) but as the subjects are all male executives and novelistic characterization is not on the agenda, their identities tend to merge into each other. The business jargon is caught perfectly:
 
I scan the vacancies (self-starter,
forward-thinking, profit-responsible,
independent but committed to group
culture
),
reading my future here in black and
white,
in terms I can relate to, a proactive role.


There are many evocative vignettes: a new recruit speed-reads his introductory pack of information about the firm, the belts of trench-coats flap in the wind as executives hold an impromptu meeting in the car park, an apple on a desk:

… deep green, high gloss,
with waxen sheen, a tea-break snack,
glows among the acetate reports,
symbolising something you can't name
...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image