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This review is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

THE BLOODY SONG ANNE STEVENSON, Stone Milk (Bloodaxe) £7.95
PAUL HOLMAN, The Memory of the Drift Books I-IV (Shearsman) £8.95
JOHN HARTLEY WILLIAMS, The Ship (Salt) £12.99
DAVID GRUBB, It Comes With A Bit of Song (Salt) £12.99

Apparently for a relationship to last one must balance each criticism of loved ones with four positive strokes. So, as we love poets and don't want them storming off into the winter night, having had enough of our constant fault-finding, we must try and do the right thing by them all.

Perhaps Anne Stevenson feels she needs to encourage and reassure her poetic ancestors and friends when they enter her day dreams. The long poem 'Lament for the Makers' that opens Stone Milk has every poet who sought fame stuck in a purgatory of sorts. Nothing as pleasant as John Berryman's merry heaven of dead poets chatting to each other, Milton with Blake, Cal with Dylan, but a host of desperate dead poets wishing they had the breath of living readers with which to make more verse. These poets talk to her and tell of their pain.

As the poet finished speaking,
a blood tint rouged the mist
that massed around him,

then the crowd suddenly rose -
a blizzard of insects,
so many I could not believe

fame had undone so many,
blinding me,
battering my hair and mouth

I lay in agony
of just woken tears
accepting those stings like kisses


So ends Part One with a graceful wave towards Eliot and Elizabethan Sonnets, and the poem finally ends with Eliot and Nescafé, Stevenson ...


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