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

BLAZONED DAYS JANE GRIFFITHS, Icarus on Earth (Bloodaxe) £7.95

In the epigraph to Jane Griffiths' new book, Wallace Stevens (from 'Notes towards a Supreme Fiction') issues a definition as challenging as it is resonant:

From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves
And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.

Obviously, a lot could be said about these lines, both in relation to Stevens's poetry as a whole and as the kind of absolute proposition about poetry which might be debated in several ways. But at the beginning of a volume of contemporary British poetry, the lines take on a particularly interesting (and, perhaps, a pointed) significance. In this context, the uncomfortable proximity between abstract rule ('the poem' - not this or that poem, nor perhaps any poem in actuality) and the first person plural ('we live', 'our own', 'not ourselves') is a problematic point. Even more so, it may be, is the insistence that the 'place' in which 'we' might 'live' is not, in any simple way, something that can be said to be either 'our own' or part of 'ourselves'. If one considers - however perfunctorily - the history of that word 'place', in both poetry and talk about poetry over the past three or four decades, then Stevens's awkwardness for many present purposes starts to become more definite. 'Blazoned days', too, is a phrase which cuts both ways - for ...


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