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This review is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

TUNNEL VISIONS EDWIN MORGAN, Virtual and Other Realities (Carcanet) £6.95

Along with the title sequence, Virtual and Other Realities contains three major achievements. 'A Voyage' evokes human conception from ejaculation to fertilisation using the points of view of its micro-biological agents. The sperm's self-narrated progress opens in imitation of the Book of Genesis but certain flourishes of alliteration, diction and lyrical description haul us instantly across the gulf separating a strictly religious, biblical register from poetry's non-denominational pleasures: 'I do remember the first body, the man's / Where I was herded haplessly with so many others / Through gloomy twists and ducts'. The conversational inflection of 'I do remember' is extended by interjections, exclamations, questions, until, in their colloquial plainness, we begin to hear the voice of a participant in a popular revolt, a scattering in the streets. As the emphasis switches from the historical moment to the personal adventure separating the hero from the 'thinning millions', the narrative abandons the past tense for the immediacy of the present. The first of two new registers which this poem carves out for biology is now in place:

I'm off. Cells are flying, waters weltering,
Strong contractions in the tunnel wall
Draw me along till I'm more boat than swimmer.

For the egg, Morgan reserves the posture of meditative romantic heroine. Compared to the sperm's headlong, risk-laden rush, her journey is akin to the drift of an organism disturbed on the seafloor. She makes rhyming speeches of self-restraint, though somewhere beneath her stoicism ...


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