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This review is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

LAWRENCE SAIL, Cross-Currents: Essays (Enitharmon) £12.95

Lawrence Sail's new collection of poems and the forty-two essays by which he has chosen to represent his civilised, digressive articles for PN Review are all of a piece. There is a shimmering quality to Sail's sensibility which moves easily between sharply focused observations of the particulars of object and place, the play of the light on the locally loved and known, and a constant alertness to larger climates and movements. A complete poem, 'Scale', deftly interweaves this constant relationship between microcosm and macrocosm:

The pod of a boat
seed or kernel
braves the dark water,
riding the limitless flux,
insisting on the small-scale
water scooped up
in a cupped hand:
a measure.

In these poems the sea, with its limitless enticements, ambivalent compass-points, is never far from the reader's consciousness. In 'Parenthetic' it remains itself, sharply delineated by those exact, unusual epithets Sail is adept in finding: 'swaying, moiré' and seen under 'a roil/of purple storm-cloud/with gulls rousant'. ('Rousant' looks finicky, but sounds right!) The sea breeds mischancy parables, though, and in a fine pair of poems, 'Child Holding a Yacht' and 'The Nightmare', the father's 'sea-change madness' becomes an emblem of self-destruction:

Once he had radioed
the false bearings
there was no going back:
the trap worked itself

One lie broke
onto another:
the swell of them heaved
racing to ...

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