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

FAULT LINES NICK LAIRD, To a Fault (Faber) £8.99

Securing his first collection with Faber at the tenderish age of twenty-eight, Nick Laird would certainly seem to have the fabled luck of the Irish, or at least the Northern Irish. That's not to say he does not also have considerable talent, but there is something about his meteoric rise which seems almost too fêted. Laird himself laments of the new media spotlight thrust on him and in an interview quotes, with an anxious glance to the future, the memorable John Updike line on the subject: 'Celebrity is the mask that eats away at the face.'

Unsurprisingly, given his profile, swords have already been drawn over Laird's poetry. It is of course natural in our culture of envy that anyone who appears to be flourishing at a rate which does not conform to acceptable levels of a more conventional laboured literary advancement must be ceremoniously skewered. In such skirmishes the word 'derivative' resounds again and again. The investigation is still ongoing and forensics have yet to deliver conclusive proof, but it is generally assumed that the muddy footprints of an intruder found on the axminsters of Messrs Armitage and Muldoon are those of Laird. Does this matter? Poets are habitually borrowing from and being influenced by one another, whole styles are moved about like furniture from one poet's house to another. Even between languages this smuggling goes on under cover of darkness, unnoticed. The key to getting away with it is to add something crucial of one's ...


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