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

ABSENCES MATTHEW FRANCIS , Whereabouts (Rufus Books) £ 12.50
JENNIE FELDMAN , The Lost Notebook (Anvil Press Poetry) £7.95

Matthew Francis's Whereabouts is one of the more nicely designed small books of poetry that I can recall: excellent paper, crisp printing and layout, and the decorative accent of a sublimated image repeating the first letter of each poem's title. This care is not accidental since typography is essential to Whereabouts' structure. Francis's thirty-five poems are all identically structured, consisting of three stanzas of descending lines - three, two, one - arranged on an identical (roughly) syllabic template: 13 or 12, 11, 7//5, 5// 4. I say 'roughly' because the syllables are sounded instead of counted in order to make up the pattern; for instance, in the last line of ' Starlings' - ' of the thronged roost' - ' thronged' is read as one syllable to make the line count four and the first lines vary a bit. The effect of all this is quite pleasing visually and the descending or narrowing down of the stanzas allows Francis to circle in and pinpoint the ' where' in the ' whereabouts' of each of his poems.

There is nothing archly self-conscious or game-like in Francis's fabrication of his self-set template; this isn't light verse that makes a technical point by sacrificing meaning and heft. Francis uses structural limits and boundaries to push verbally towards at least a provisional pinning down of his subject. Francis is a poet of location - he sights in on a subject: the moon, a jetty, a building - but it ...


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