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

POLITICS AND PEACE MARTIN ESPADA, The Republic of Poetry (Norton) USA $23.95, Can. $30.00
JANE HIRSHFIELD, After (Bloodaxe) £8.95

Jane Hirshfield, born in 1953, has lived for over twenty years in a Northern California cottage that overlooks fruit trees, roses and Mt Tamalpais. Her collection, entitled After, examines human behaviour, the patterns of animals and the weight and meaning of words. Martin Espada, born in 1957, draws on the poker-hot politics of South America and the lives and deaths of some of his literary contemporaries in his collection, The Republic of Poetry.

Espada travelled to Chile in 2004 for the Neruda centenary and out of his experience came the cycle of Chile poems at the heart of his new collection. In the title poem, Espada envisages a world improved by poetry: politicians follow poets round the country, monks print poetry on chocolate and poets bombard the national palace with poems on bookmarks. Espada's voice is simple and truthful; his poetry is filled with spare, luminous detail arranged in tidy verses. A musical poet, he often establishes the tone of the poem by repeating a key phrase at the start of each stanza, as in 'The Republic of Poetry', 'Sonnet In Praise of Java Pie' and 'I Have An Eel In My Heart' where he builds a delicate poem written for many victims in Chile:

I have an eel in my heart
wriggling through every chamber
popping up from every shipwreck
to startle the divers scavenging down there...

I have an eel in ...

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