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This review is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

WAR ZONES ADRIENNE RICH, The School among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 (W.W. Norton) £8.99

The title poem of Rich's latest collection is a lament for the children who live in war zones. Its epigraph lists the ravaged cities she has in mind: 'Beirut. Baghdad. Sarajevo. Bethlehem. Kabul. Not of course here.' Despite its admirable humanitarian impulse, the risk here is of homogenising places and people in generalised description:

When the whole town flinches
blood on the undersole thickening to glass

Whoever crosses hunched knees bent a contested zone
knows why she does this suicidal thing

School's now in session day and night
children sleep
in the classrooms teachers rolled close

Rich is more convincing closer to home. 'The Eye' qualifies that claim about the safety of American soil by juxtaposing a domes-tic apartment's ordinary comforts with life imagined during war:

A balcony, violet shade on stucco fruit in a plastic bowl on the iron
    raggedy legged table, grapes and sliced melon, saucers, a knife, wine
in a couple of thick short tumblers cream cheese once came in: our snack
    in the eye of the war There are places where fruit is implausible, even
rest is implausible, places where wine if any should be poured into wounds
    but we're not yet there or it's not here yet it's the war
not us, that moves, pauses and hurtles forward into the neck
    and groin of the city, the soft indefensible places ...


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