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

A LIFE OF ITS OWN DESMOND HEATH, Zagzig and Other Directions: Poems and Pieces (DB books) £7.95

One thing that Desmond Heath seems able to do very well is to accentuate the music of the words with which his poems are made. Throughout Zagzig there are phrases that are so well put together that the sounds they make do enough to qualify them as original, well written poetry. Examples of this are: 'gassed up happy' ('Poéme d'Extase'); 'smile inside a whale' ('Worlds Apart'); 'granite in a meadow' ('Rhinefalls'); 'half peeping whole perching' ('Et Alors?').

Another thing Heath does is to allow his phrases a sort of suggestiveness or ambiguity that means the poems feel a little enigmatic or philosophical. With pieces like 'Candelabrum' it is easy to get the idea that this is writing that might be worth returning to. Here is how it begins:

As if by brushing with a leaf
a twig could light a bud,

the wick flames
and this and this.

One other thing Heath does is to take for a subject the actual words he is using in his poem. This is not a low-risk strategy. While a well-made poem might indeed take on a life of its own, one in which the writer leaves a little marker to indicate the joins where it was put together is probably likely to fall apart. 'haywire' does appear to begin well, the lower-case letters of its title and first line working with the almost unpunctuated sentences to create an unfussy ...


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