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This review is taken from PN Review 94, Volume 20 Number 2, November - December 1993.

VOICES IN THE TREES PATRICIA BEER, Friend of Heraclitus (Carcanet) £6.95 pb
RUTH BIDGOOD, Selected Poems (Seren) £6.95 pb
KIRKPATRICK DOBIE, Selected Poems (PeterIoo Poets) £6.95 pb

Patricia Beer's engaging new collection, Friend of Heraclitus, is, as the title suggests, much concerned with the impermanence of things. The opening poem sombrely assures us that the nightingale's song, if it be more than a figment of the poetic imagination, is a hopelessly ephemeral phenomenon. Beer is fond of using birds as a kind of existential barometer and in the opening pages of this book behaves like a miner with a cage full of speculative canaries. In 'TheVoice' her bereavedAunt is given a parrot for companionship, eventually teaching the bird to speak. Language does not make us special in the face of time; it can be partly acquired by a parrot which itself succumbs to mortality, movingly muddling its nursery rhymes just before the end. Still more poignant and sophisticated is 'Cockcrow', which recalls the early morning departure of the speaker's children and grandchildren while a cockerel's annunciation rings up out of the valley. It is only on such precious occasions that this sound is heard. The joy of the regular triumph of day over night is qualified by the sad knowledge that such visits must be dinite. Children must grow up; while their speeding years ally them to the anonymous permanence of the cockerel and generation, personal life is mercilessly short.

These are hard realities, although there is no stoical world-weariness about Beer's tone which frequently seems quirkily innocent, an assumption of sheltered English curiosity. Hence in 'Guillotine 1989'she wonders

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