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

TRUTH UNVEILED BY TIME GREVEL LINDOP, Playing With Fire (Carcanet) £9.95

Grevel Lindop's fifth collection, Playing With Fire, honours his imploration in recent essays that sexual experience should be more boldly confronted by contemporary poetry. That he does so here without overtones of boast, apology or cliché is testimony to the clarity, wisdom and conviction of Lindop's writing.

To play with fire is both to witness and control it. 'Watching', to quote a title, is a fundamental theme here; thirty-one poems are set in a pole-dancing club. Yet, this book is full of mirrors, and Lindop is watching himself, as well as the girls: 'Watching as she took off all her clothes,/ he unwrapped his own heart's desire'.

Praising the artistry of various performances, Lindop presents these dancers as likeable, intelligent individuals. However, amidst their professionalism, a memorably human moment occurs when Nicole, with her breast against Carina's, laughs at the speaker's enchantment. The poems also reveal emotional aspects of viewing all this, for example, jealousy when a dancer devotes particular attention to another customer. Despite Lindop's excitement, the poems remain controlled, and the tightest forms here contain the most passion.

Sonnets are composed after Baudelaire and Meireles, while Manet and Picasso are mentioned alongside Wyatt and Yeats. Other influences are indicated more allusively; the sight of Christina's normally hidden 'golden hair' distantly suggests 'Goldenhair' of Joyce's Chamber Music and 'Watching the fire dance/ On the floor.'

The depths of this book are revealed by its ...


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