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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

FRESH PERSPECTIVES SIMON ARMITAGE, The Universal Home Doctor (Faber) £8.99
MATTHEW MEAD, Walking Out of the World (Anvil) £7.95
CAROLA LUTHER, Walking the Animals (Carcanet) £6.95
CHRISTIAN McEWAN, In the Wake of Home (Meadowlark Press) $15/£12

In The Universal Home Doctor Simon Armitage documents private and public concerns with a broadcaster's ear and eye. The book's title comes from the scene in 'Birthday', where he finds his lover pouring over entries on infertility. It seems his infidelity has triggered her psychosomatic stony ground, which in turn exacerbates his own sense of doom: 'I watch/Anubis... checking the bin for bones or meat'. The themes of relationship tension and procreation echo his latest novel, The White Stuff. 'The Shout' witnesses a classmate trying to make himself heard, first as a boy, then as a young man who commits suicide. The gunshot is a cry for help that ricochets through the poem's internal rhymes, like a voice of conscience.

'The Twang' and 'The English' are satirical cartoons, engaging with the spectrum of patriotism. As sonnets, they subvert the Englishness of Shakespeare and Brook, but also reinforce them. Alongside justified criticism, the first highlights the low volume of St George's Day by painting the scene with St Patrick's Day fervour, while the second draws attention to the responsibility of those who gave their lives for their community, who 'steadied' themselves 'to post a key back': 'that is how they sleep'. 'The Laughing Stock' and 'Chainsaw versus the Pampass Grass' are strong political poems, harking back to Marvell, Dunn, Harrison or Armitage's own 'The Two of Us'.

'Two Clocks' updates Auden's 'The Witnesses', replacing a world of conspiracy with the random causation of a rainforest ...


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