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

THE CLOSER CONSTELLATIONS Seren Selections, edited by Amy Wack (Seren) £ 8.99

In its twenty-fifth anniversary year, the consistently impressive Welsh publisher Seren presents the first of a series of new poetry anthologies from Wales and beyond, featuring eleven new poets who have yet to publish a full collection.

Unsurprisingly given its premise, some of the poems in the anthology display signs of immaturity - self-consciousness, adolescent angst, creative-writing workshop artifice. Zoe Brigley's rather laboured experiments with concrete poetry are one example; 'My Dress Hangs Here', her Plath-influenced, pseudo-feminist musing on female identity, is another ('My dress is a queue of women each jostling / the other .../...Passive, maternal, childish, aspiring...'). Existential crises and clichéd extremity of emotion rear their heads in several other poems. In 'Piercing', for example, Karen Godwin pretentiously elevates her own gap year experiments with body art by comparing them with the bloodletting rituals of the Mesoamerican Mayan peoples; similarly 'Finches and Parakeets', Markus Lloyd's strangely unaffecting sequence set in a psychiatric ward, treads the uncomfortable outer edge of confessional poetry in this anthology.

The stronger poets, however, handle the theme of first relationships with unexpected subtlety. Huw Jones' sensual, tactile love poem 'Summer' is one example; 'For a Housewarming' by Tiffany Atkinson is another, fusing sleepy suburban inertia ('For our garden keeps its flint heart / under weeds...') with the frisson of sexual expectation:

                          ... For up in the high room
there's a bed made ready like a revellers' table. For there
we'll undo ourselves against raw ...


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