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This review is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

FOX COMING HOME KEN SMITH, You Again: Last Poems and Other Words (Bloodaxe) £8.95

Appearing a year after Ken Smith's death, You Again consists of twenty-six pages of 'Last Poems' alongside prose, older poems, commentaries and 'Poems for Ken' (including tributes by O'Brien, Connor and Benson). Though the combination of Smith's new and selected work renders the quality uneven, it forms a substantial introduction to his writing, and should also delight longer-standing admirers.

While the more prosaic, post-9/ 11 'Last Poems' now seem dated, this is why they are valuable, capturing the confusion of the initial 'days of terror', as well as preserving details since forgotten, such as the explosion at a chemical plant in Toulouse on the same day.

By March 2003, Smith was in intensive care, suffering with Legionnaire's Disease and unable to write, yet the political events of this month are powerfully brought to mind by the poems. War had long been an underlying preoccupation in his work, but the strongest sections of the lengthy 'Almost' address it with renewed starkness, especially 'Things', a haunted, Celan-like litany of the ruins Smith saw in Bosnia. However, his most insightful observations evoke, more specifically, wartime mentality, conveyed in the six-page cycle 'The Ring' with dark beauty:

[...] then when
a single candle was lit on the altar,
I at that moment as the great world
turned into night and the fear of it,
would have believed anything.

Not all the post-Shed poems are ...


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