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

THE INNERMOST CELL JOHN SEED, New and Collected Poems (Shearsman) £9.95
JOHN SEED, Pictures from Mayhew (Shearsman) £10.95

One of John Seed's earlier books has an important epigram from Adorno: 'Represented in the innermost cell of thought is that which is unlike thought.' And a later book has another: 'Even in the most sublimated work of art there is a hidden "it should be different".' Perhaps these elucidate his drive towards inconclusiveness and fragmentation, his avoidance of the neatly rounded poem which offers a completion, anecdotal or descriptive or discursive. Things tend to float in his poems - disjointed phrases or instances, items of place or event, rarely connected discursively, which is not to say haphazard or without purpose. Main verbs are not very common, and conjunctions are quite rare, especially the kind which would say 'And then... And so... On the other hand... So perhaps... And it seems to me that...' etc. etc. Instead we get floating percepts, the elements of a scene or state, and the thoughts attached to them, as discrete entities in sequence, always held back from a presentational intervention which would damage the 'thought which is unlike thought', the constancy of 'it should be different'.

He is one of a number, or sequence, of British poets who have been influenced by Americans such as Williams and Oppen. One thing such poets share in common is a kind of slow thoughtfulness - you can almost see the mind moving from one thing to another, weighing and disposing calmly, seeking to gain the full measure of an experience by leaving gaps where ...

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