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This review is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.


Angela McSeveney's subjects are commonplace and universal: the aftermath of a failed relationship, the death of a mother, child murders on TV, a woman's body, childlessness. All of this is presented to us - in tercets of free verse mostly - as fragments of autobiography. The tone of voice is conversational, matter of fact, mainly quite unsentimental. The use of imagery is restrained as McSeveney is determined to let nothing get between her and the human situations she recreates for us. She is excellent on those small personal humiliations we are all familiar with from a variety of contexts and which we push aside as rapidly as possible. McSeveney doesn't. She stills them, holds them up, examines them from all angles with an often masochistic precision. We know more about the world as a result. A post-card from an ex-lover is received:

You chat on
like old times
till there's no room left
then sign off with best wishes.

I flinch slightly
at the low aimed blow.

I'd still be able to sign with love
though I haven't always
wished you well.
                                       (from 'Signing Off')

Like many of these poems, this repays being spoken aloud, for the irony is subtly underscored by the deft distribution of 'l' sounds so that the verse reads almost as a parody of the cheesy rhymes sometimes found in greetings cards. This nails the thoughtlessness (or slight ...

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