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

PERILOUS TERRITORY PAUL JENKINS, Radio Tooth (Four Way Books) $12.95

The first line of the American poet Paul Jenkins's Radio Tooth - 'These rooms are where we live but not for long' - establishes the atmosphere of disquiet that characterises the largely domestic poems that follow. Because of the dreary ordinariness of most domestic poetry, Jenkins's ability to suffuse his poems with menace without opting for sensationalism or sentimentality results in poems that manage to 'keep the humdrum at bay'. Jenkins examines an offkilter world, 'Where to talk you stand not eye to eye but cheek to cheek'; and he often treats the domestic in such a way that it becomes strange while retaining some familiarity, thus unsettling the otherwise mundane scenes many of his poems portray, as in the typically odd poem 'Well':

Well the house cats were always sleeping
And the goats spent days inventing holes in the fence
And the bear came down only as far as the hives
And knocked their rocks off and scattered the sweet frames

Well the cats wandered to the screen door and complained
In unison and when I opened it decided not to
And the goats got up on top of each other no matter which kind
And the bear froze in the sheriff's searchlight

Well the cats set out within days of the U-Haul
And the son disappeared but the mother somehow found us
And the goats belonged to no one not then not ...


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