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This review is taken from PN Review 164, Volume 31 Number 6, July - August 2005.

OLD AND NEW IN PETERLOO ANNE GRIMES, Alice's Cat (Peterloo Poets) £7.95
ELIZABETH ROWE, Surface Tension (Peterloo Poets) £7.95
BRIAN BARTLETT, Wanting the Day: Selected Poems (Peterloo Poets) £9.00

The first collections by Anne Grimes and Elisabeth Rowe are quintessentially Peterloo, almost to the point of parody: rurally retired English teachers reflecting in bittersweet sepia over childhood, travels and photographs. Yet, on closer reading, both bring more to this eccentric publishing-house than they take from it.

Grimes' indecision as to whether her poems should rhyme or half-rhyme begins Alice's Cat with inconsistency, but when she opts towards the latter as the book progresses, this is resolved. Sonnets chronicling a wartime childhood are richly insightful (its further exploration would be welcome), while the haunting pantoum 'Trapped' (evoking Grimes' most poetic hour, across 'the line from day to night') demands and rewards many readings.

Her descriptions of rural and urban are pleasing, but somewhat dichotomised; more interaction might have intensified both. Swaying between simplicity and subtlety, this is a slightly unbalanced first collection; Grimes' poetic maturation throughout the book is a little too evident, but confirmed and encouraging nonetheless.

More sustainedly confident is Rowe's Surface Tension, one of Peterloo's most distinctive first collections, replete with flamboyant yet appealing candidness (see the subtly linked 'Confession' and 'You Wore Black'). Though sexual undercurrents punctuate poems about picnics, Mothers' Union photographs and marrows, 'Surprise Me' still surprised me with the speaker's invitation to her lover to whizz round on a Harley and take her out for 'a slap-up fuck'.

Rowe's forms are organised, but neither tightly ...


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