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This review is taken from PN Review 169, Volume 32 Number 5, May - June 2006.

KINDS OF DISSONANCE MARK FORD, A Driftwood Altar: Essays and Reviews (Waywiser) £10.95
ROSMARIE WALDROP, Dissonance (if you are interested)(University of Alabama Press) £28.50

If you turn to A Driftwood Altar seeking a fix on the distant excitement of Mark Ford's poems, it will eventually supply one: 'Like too many of my poems, this one ends up being about empires, their rise and fall...' Ford perhaps was making the same discovery as Rosmarie Waldrop did when her collage-poems still ended up being about her mother. She comments:

Tristan Tzara has a famous recipe for making a Dada poem by cutting words out of a newspaper and tossing them in a hat. He ends with: 'The poem will resemble you.'


Besides this, the character of the connection between Ford's own poems and (especially) Raymond Roussel is surely a tacit sub-theme of his major essay 'Mont d'Espoir or Mount Despair: Early Bishop, Early Ashbery, and the French'. It sheds its light on Bishop and Ashbery, too: a fairly timely reminder of just how 'explosive' The Tennis Court Oath was and remains; also a reminder that Bishop's poems have a radically different resonance once you forget about New England.

Elsewhere, Ford is sympathetically concerned with his subjects and keeps himself out of the picture; his imperial obsessions perhaps manifesting themselves only in an odd phrase such as 'the French' and in his relish for the kind of journalistic challenge presented by reviewing Weldon Kees for the LRB: addressing, as it were, ...


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