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This review is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

NATURALIZATION STANLEY PLUMLY, The Marriage in the Trees (The Ecco Press)

Stanley Plumly's The Marriage in the Trees takes its epigraph from Keats: 'Things semireal such as Love, / the Clouds &c which require / a greeting of the Spirit / to make them wholly exist.' But whereas Keats in this quotation suggests a kind of pantheism where love and clouds are discrete coequals acted upon by the 'Spirit', Plumly is interested in a train of causation which makes the human and the natural - love and clouds - linked to the point that each brings the other into existence. Throughout, Plumly's nature teeters between fact and magic. On the one hand, there is the empiricism of 'In Answer to Amy's Question What's a Pickerel' in which the fish is brought into existence by description: 'Pickerel have infinite, small bones, and skins / of glass and black ground glass, and though small for pike / are no less wall-eyed and their eyes like bone.' Plumly won't give up description but neither does he give himself over to the delirium of magical realism. Instead, observation not only personifies the natural world but reverberates as consolation for an age which is sceptical of capitalizing words like spirit; from 'Reading the Poets':

Keats at his medical lectures drew flowers.
Not from indifference, not from his elegance:
his interest couldn't bear the remarkable
screams of the demonstrations.

Sometimes the relapse into nature is total, as in the tragic 'Souls of Suicides as Birds':

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