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This review is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

ANOTHER WORLD ALICE OSWALD, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (Faber) £8.99

Alice Oswald must be from another planet. There are aspects of her poetry which I should not admire - her attachment to a locality that is foreign and exotic to anyone but natives of Devonshire, her metaphysical feeling for nature and the natural, her anti-modern attachment to the rural and its implements - and these are in full play in her first collection, where they are more significant than in the two follow-ups that have appeared since her first book's publication by OUP in 1996: the modernist Dart and the post-modernist Woods etc. Yet I forgive all these things and can't get enough for the most part. It is too easy to argue that I appreciate her use of language, for all the language in the world can't save a poem from expressing a bad idea. She is also to me more English a poet than many of her contemporaries, and I see this as an insult when the truth about England is far more apparent in the work of Simon Armitage, say, than Oswald, if it's social realism we're talking about. However, because of what I call her difficulties, her archaicness perhaps, she presents a unique, and uniquely readable, perspective.

Follow me here along a slightly different track: the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, in constructing the Folk Archive for the Barbican in 2005, a retrospective of contemporary British folk art, noted that he hoped visitors would ...


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