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This review is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

A WINNING MODICUM KEITH HARRISON, Changes: New and Collected Poems 1962-2002 (Black Willow Press) £15.95

An Australian, Keith Harrison spends half his time in Minnesota, in the USA, and warns his readers at the start of the book that the spelling is presented in both `language-cultures'. Changes `gathers all the new poems and all the poems from ... previous collections' that the author wishes `to keep at this stage' and these are arranged `where they belong together generically'. He has previously published ten books of poetry and translation, the main ones being Points in a Journey and Songs from the Drifting House (both Macmillan, London), The Basho Poems and Words Against War, a verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (originally Folio Society; revised version Oxford University Press, 1998). He has also been published widely in periodicals.

Initially, I was not enchanted:

      Why do I choose this trade, and choose again?
                                                                                    These words,
This paper-thin ice of meaning which cracks with the lightest touch and we fall in,
                                                                               and drown.

Yet another poet bemoaning language's slippery, unpinnable signifiers, complaining via them what a poor job all words perform? Well, do your job better then! And complaining with such quotidian imagery and bathos! But, slowly, and over the length of the collection, I grew to like Harrison's society. Or, rather, I grew to enjoy the company of his words, which occasionally reminded me of the fine, robust, direct yet often quite tender poems of Raymond Carver (the American writer most famed for ...


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