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

EROS AND IMAGINATION Making Love to Marilyn Monroe: The Faber Book of Blue Verse, edited by John Whitworth (Faber)
GREVEL LINDOP, Playing with Fire (Carcanet)
VICKI FEAVER, The Book of Blood (Cape)

First published in 1990, this reissue of Making Love to Marilyn Monroe: The Faber Book of Blue Verse provides no introductory rationale for the collection and offers no definition of 'blue', although the press release speaks of 'candidly sexual verse' which is 'touching, tender, ribald, coarse and technically adept'. Ah yes, 'technically adept' - to distinguish it from the technically clumsy verses you could, and perhaps still can, find on the back of doors in the public lavatories at King's Cross or Manchester Piccadilly stations. Blue language, blue jokes, blue movie: the dictionary definition offers: 'sexually explicit, improper, pornographic'; to my grandma, 'blue' in this context meant simply 'mucky'; and to D.H. Lawrence it meant 'doing dirt on life'. But then, poor old Bert could be a bit anal, couldn't he? (Although he was not above being ribald himself occasionally: in 'Figs' or the Tortoise poems.)

And going by the substantial fixation in this anthology, 'anal' seems to represent a large part of the definition of the blue for the editor: arses from Aretino to Craig Raine; from Rochester to the 'peachy behind' delicately referred to in Fleur Adcock's translation of an epigram of Marcus Argentarius. Generally speaking, women poets seem to be less preoccupied with the backside than the men; and - if the proportion (approximately 6:1) in the anthology is representative - men seem to be much more obsessively preoccupied with the 'blue' in all its variants than women.

The ...


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