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 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

THE SKIN'S SKIN Out of Fashion: An Anthology of Poems, edited by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber) £9.99

'The sonnet,' claims Carol Ann Duffy, 'will always be the little black dress of poetry.' Sonnets do not go out of fashion. Though 'poetry' and 'fashion' are not often found in the same sentence, in this anthology the most 'stylish' of contemporary poets were asked to contribute and to choose a poem from another age or culture, from Sappho to The Gawain Poet. The resonances between the poems are striking.

For Manolo Blahnik, the anthology 'evokes the immediacy and direct relation between the fashion object and the human body'. The poems also explore the fashion object's mediation between the body, the 'self' and the outside world. This relationship can be determining, as in Roger McGough's choice of A.S.J. Tessimond's 'The Man in the Bowler Hat', where the 'hat' hems in the speaker and is a metonym for 'the unnoticeable man'. Or, as any little girl could tell you, clothes are for dressing up and playing roles with, as in Elizabeth Bishop's 'Exchanging Hats'. Though dressing up can end in explosive change, as in Nina Cassian's 'Dance': 'dressed in green, I could / provoke a disaster'.

Clothes are the props and stage management of desire. In Carol Rumens' 'The Scarf Exchange', when 'playing at adultery', scarves are smuggled 'into our marriages'. They become 'the opposite of our bodies'. But shame tags onto desire. In D.H. Lawrence's poem 'In Trouble and Shame', chosen by Carol Rumens, the speaker yearns to 'put off /My shame like shoes in ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image