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This review is taken from PN Review 177, Volume 34 Number 1, September - October 2007.

MASTER OF THE MIND-VORTEX ANDREW DUNCAN, Savage Survivals amid Modern Suavity (Shearsman Books) £8.95

Andrew Duncan is that rare phenomenon - a poet with strong intellectual interests who is not an academic, and a critic who stands outside any established school of literary criticism. As critic he has been mainly a defender of the avant-garde; as a poet his sympathies are in general more European than American ('Almond Wind', after Mandelstam, is one of his finer earlier poems) - and to my ear sounds nothing like the poets he defends, or even much like other Cambridge poets. This is his eighth collection of poetry - and it is a good one, crisply edited with a range of subject-matter that at one edge dips back to Hibernian dream-time accompanied by the warrior heroes of the Water Margin (a sort of gay coven here) and, at another, borrowing vocabularies from management manuals, computer science and genetics, makes a stab at 'Visualising Corporate Structure':

We took the Minister of Selective Listening
round a park
of shattered businesses with red circles
to mark the weak point that wasn't in the model.
A shop full of sea-shells decks out
the plenitude and panoply of curves and hollows,
equations of a surface developed by spin
growing tenuous as it realises itself, each
a glimpse of the fertile unfailing allness
- radial, spiral, spherical, bivalve,
chambered, armoured, mottled, decussate -
surfaces for expressing process.
He understood the neck of a bottle.
Pointed cylinder with panels ...


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