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This report is taken from PN Review 173, Volume 33 Number 3, January - February 2007.

Altogether Elsewhere Neil Powell

Up in the attic, there's a memorably cherry-red seven-inch spool of Zonatape in its sturdy cardboard case; and there, too, is the Telefunken tape-recorder on which to play it. The tape contains an important poetry reading given at the Edinburgh Festival some time in the mid960s and broadcast, naturally, on the Third Programme. But there's no point in digging it out: I know, all too well, that the frayed PVC will have turned brittle and snappy; and as for those cavalier edits and repairs I used to make with sellotape and a Bib splicer, they wouldn't stand a chance now. So I suppose I'll just have to do this bit from memory.

Except that there's something about a damp winter afternoon that's conducive to the lunatic pursuit of lost causes. It takes ten minutes and half a dozen heaps of forgotten books and magazines to locate the tape; the machine, unused for at least a decade, whirs very slowly to start with when I plug it in, but its two-tone green level indicator lights up in a completely unsurprised way. Finding an empty seven-inch spool takes another five minutes, then we're ready to go. The leader tape comes predictably adrift and the stop-foil (remember stop-foil?) snaps off too: there's nothing for it but to run the tape straight onto the spool. And run it amazingly does, without breaking and without too much audible deterioration either.

John Wain introduces readings by George Barker and W.D. Snodgrass ...


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