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This review is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

RUMINATIONS CAROL RUMENS, Poems 1968-2004 (Bloodaxe) £12

Carol Rumens' new collection is a weighty and practically exhaustive collection of the poet's work to date. However, despite the length of the book, it is surprisingly easy to make one's way through - perhaps because a single poetic consciousness and direction runs through the collection, uniting it. Whilst the younger angrier voice of the earlier collections mellows and becomes more reflective, it remains the same likeable, feisty and yet vulnerable lyric persona speaking from beginning to end.

This is not to say that the poems are either openly autobiographical, or unvaried in tone. Rumens' poems are full of circumstance and detail: streets, carrier bags, city dust, poverty, childbirth, unhappy love. It is tempting to try to read a biography into the poems, but the size of the collection serves to show the variety of guises and landscapes inhabited by the poet. The sincerity of the poems is beyond doubt, but it is the sincerity of well-managed empathy, rather than the gushing of lived experience.

Rumens is a political poet, that is to say her observations of the world are provoked, shaped and illuminated by an understanding of the social and political context. This is at its most overt in the earlier collections, full of fierce anti-capitalist pieces, poems about money and class and the downtrodden, which are perhaps included for the sake of integrity, to represent the poet's full oeuvre. There are precedents: Brecht and his 'Mask of Anger' which one is duty bound ...


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