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This review is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

BIOPICS ROGER McGOUGH, Defying Gravity (Penguin) £6·99
JOHN MOLE, Depending on the Light (Peterloo Poets) £6.95
EDWARD LOWBURY, Collected Poems (University of Salzburg) £14.95

Like other determinedly colloquial poets, Roger McGough seems to discover his most serious and effective voice when dealing with reminiscences of his family. Defying Gravity gets off to an arresting start with'The Railings', which recalls the poet's father, continually relegating himself to the fringes of his son's life.We see him peering through the railings at a school cricket match, claiming afterwards to have been 'Just passing'. The language is dead-pan, prosey, but scarcely matters.The conceit behind the piece-a father eternally finding himself by accident at 'The twentyfirst.The Wedding.The Christening' -has a solid, almost inviolable quality which seems to be independent of the accident of vocabulary.

McGough never equals 'The Railings' again in this book, although he clearly inherits the outsider's role; coyly minding the clothes at a skinny-dipping party in the late sixties, cultivating detachment in the name of his vocation, or else giving it a kinky, voyeuristic twist in'Your Favourite Hat', where he slips into a womans secret life in the innocent guise of her head-gear. It becomes easy to indulge in amateur psychology and attribute the more whimsical doodlings which make up most of this collection to a desire jokily to save face, to be accepted by those glistening love-children when they finally re-emerge from the ocean. It seems that McGough's tricky ingenuity has veered out of control, become a nervous tick that prevents him from going for more than a couple of lines without indulging in a pun or visual joke. Of course this ...

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