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

TRAVEL AND RETURNS ALICE OSWALD, Woods etc. (Faber) £12.99
ANNA WIGLEY, Dürer's Hare (Gomer) £7.99
KATE RHODES, Reversal (Enitharmon) £7.95

Growing up between Maynooth and Monasterevin, on the banks of the Grand Canal fed by the prone to disappearing Pollardstown Fen, you couldn't really avoid Gerard Manley Hopkins, a once regular visitor to South Kildare whose presence is now formally enshrined in the town's annual Hopkins Festival. At fourteen, 'God's Grandeur', 'Felix Randall' and 'The Windhover' were standard school fare; a heady concoction of alliteration and awe that served the needs of both curriculum and Catholicism well. In the current climate, awe is 'bleared, smeared', but in Alice Oswald's long awaited new collection, recently nominated for the Forward Prize, an unembarrassed, effusive and surprisingly moving Hopkinesque awe reasserts itself. Throughout this formally eclectic sequence of short poems which retreats temporarily from the watery landscapes of Dart, Oswald thoughtfully traces symmetries between worlds, experiences, forms; the wonder of those presencings, 'a sudden entering elsewhere' ('Sonnet'), that confirm the 'something that is side by side with anyone' ('Mountains', The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile). As with Hopkins, Oswaldian awe is attuned to the consolations of nature's formalities, congruities, the regularities 'wedged / between its premise and its conclusion' ('Field'). At the same time it registers dissonance, withdrawal, separation, absent presences; 'the distinct misgiving between alternate voices' ('Birdsong for Two Voices'), or the 'opponent selves hanging and fluttering/ out there in the taken for granted air' ('A Star Here and A Star There'), 'the leaves that aren't yet there' ('Wood Not Yet Out').

Oswald's ...


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