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

PERIPHERAL VISIONS OWEN SHEERS , Skirrid Hill (Seren) £ 7.99
W.N. HERBERT , Bad Shaman Blues (Bloodaxe) £8.95
PHILIP GROSS , The Egg of Zero (Bloodaxe) £7.95
JO SHAPCOTT , Her Book: Poems 1988–98 (Faber and Faber) £12.99

Owen Sheers is the relative neophyte amongst this quartet of poets, though Skirrid Hill is already his second collection of poems. He is also the author of a curious mixed-genre prose work, The Dust Diaries - part-biography, part-autobiography, part-travelogue - which is more daring than his poetry and which, curiously, fails most when it tries to reach for the poetic. Nevertheless his poetry has received a good deal of attention in its own right, and the recommendations of our present Poet Laureate have led many to see him as potentially a sort of Welsh Seamus Heaney. His latest book doesn't quite live up to the hype, though it makes an agreeable impression.

It is full of work that is accessible, enjoyable, and sometimes memorable. There are a number of poems which seem destined in advance for school anthologies, ready to take their places alongside poems by Simon Armitage or Carol Ann Duffy. One of the best of these is 'Stitch in Time', recounting the fortunes of an Asian tailor in highly irregular rhyming or near-rhyming couplets. Without this jaggedness the poem might have seemed too slick. The ending seems preordained, the tailor coming to London,

to Greenwich, to see at last where it all started.
To stand under a blue sky where the swallows darted;

an explorer discovering the source, the still point after strife,
the first stitch in the pattern to which he'd cut his life.


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