PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt on Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 162, Volume 31 Number 4, March - April 2005.

KATHRYN GRAY, The Never-Never (Seren) £7.99
MATTHEW HOLLIS, Ground Water (Bloodaxe) £7.95
CAROLA LUTHER, Walking the Animals (Carcanet) £6.95
JACOB POLLEY, The Brink (Picador) £7.99

The volumes here come under the umbrella of the most recent Forward Prize for a first collection, part of the supposed democratisation of poetry, with, it seems, prizes or at least shortlists for all. Yet recent sales figures suggest that the book-buying public would not find the proposition that good poets are rare and usually dead contentious. The real interest of some first volumes - many fewer than are published - usually emerges only with hindsight which allows readers to discern retrospectively the beginnings of something individual and distinctive. What first collections typically offer readers is not something new but the recycling of what poststructuralists call 'the already written'. In particular such volumes yield a goodly crop of Thought Potatoes, verse where Ted Hughes's poem-as-fox merges with Seamus Heaney's 'Digging', and contain many instances of local 'poetic effects' which are overworked, too insistent on advertising their status as poetry. The nudges of onomatopoeia , line and word spacing used to enact (too literally) movement, enjambment over the 'gap//between' stanzas as well as lines (Gray), and even the twee claim that the word 'bed' looks like a bed (Flynn) - leave readers with bruised ribs. Meanwhile, of course, language plays its own games, always ready to catch out the ambitious but inattentive.

Chancer, dancer, answer, romancer, even - appositely per-haps - necromancer... : Matthew Hollis's claim that 'nothing rhymes with cancer' does not inspire confidence. Of course Hollis is working in some figurative way and does not let ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image