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

RECURRENCE AND DIFFERENCE KEN EDWARDS, No Public Language: Selected Poems 1975-1995 (Shearsman) £10.95
JURIS KRONBERGS, Wolf One-Eye (Arc) £9.99
JOHN BARNIE, Sea Lilies: Selected Poems 1984-2003 (Seren) £9.99

'No public language' is indeed the fitting title for Ken Edwards's poetry, with its endless 'confusion of definition', its competing idioms, its persistant refusal to join things together. Built into the verse is the belief that language is inevitably localised, prejudicial, limited - that it won't share its meanings (as it often won't here with the casual reader); and though this poetry may shun 'beautiful things' ('Their Daily Island Life') in favour of the 'spilt bucket' ('Organically'), its prophesy of being 'more fruitful than lyric production' comes true. Whether we engage with its shifting terms, try to keep time to its cross-rhythms, or gaze in wonder at its aporia, Edwards's poetry is constantly alive, responding triumphantly to every approach.

This valuable collection brings together most of the poetry that has shamefully been out of print, properly preserving the individual books in their entirety. It clearly illustrates the origins and development of Edwards's innovative techniques of cutting and splicing, sampling and reconfiguring, from the haunting early imagistic minimalism of Erik Satie loved children (1975) to the 'autobiographical', many-moded 3,600 Weekends (1993). The influences grow ever more peregrine as the volume progresses, Glissando Curve (c. 1995) adopting the Indian ghazal form for subjects as dark as capital punishment and the Balkans conflict.

He first finds his true force in Drumming & Poems (1982), when the dislocation techniques combine with dislocated subjects - the homeless, immigrants, ...


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