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

REWARDS OF RESTRAINT KONA MACPHEE, Tails (Bloodaxe) £7.95
DEBORAH DIGGES, Trapeze (Knopf) $23.00

Kona Macphee's 'Taking her in' is dedicated to 'Fiona' - is she the dying 'mottled little sister'? It stops the breath with the impotence of 'you see the adults / are no more certain than you what comes now' or 'We'll go back, he says. But of course you can't.' The poem remains personal to the reader, but Macphee wisely allows little sight of the threads attaching it to her. 'Elegy for a Climber', which indicates more unequivocably its roots in experience (i.m. Brendan Murphy), is similarly discreet. Other poems, 'IVF' for instance, seem diluted by biography. One deduces that narrowness of focus is Macphee's strength. 'Paul's Epiphany''s encounter with a damaged 'her', identified simply as 'the fragile calibrations /of a living thing', challenges our tendency to discriminate between human and animal. 'Hugh's Boomerang' is beautifully accurate:

winging
skew as a drunken fruitbat,

its barely slowing whuh whuh whuh


although in a disappointingly limp setting:

a tourist's toy
skimming the foreign green of trees
that know a leaner sun.

'Waltz' works better: 'He grips the gather of her waist/ and pours her like a ewer into dance.' 'Last night at the conference' physicalises sin - infidelity - in tiny detail: 'on his skin, faintly, the stain of a mole'. This is a collection of missed lives - dead, dying, failures of conception, ending in birth with Caitlin, b. 31. 01. 03, and ...


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