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This review is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

2
It starts well. The second poem in the book is Pauline Stainer's remarkable Arctic sequence 'The Ice-Pilot Speaks', which is almost an anthology in itself. Only a few pages later, one comes across Eavan Boland's 'The Journey', surely one of the great poems of our time. The narrator is visited in a dream by Sappho, who takes her to an underworld populated by child plague victims and their mothers. With a plot like that, it ought to be both self-conscious and sentimental, but Boland's assured narrative technique makes it extraordinarily moving. There are fine images in this poem, as in the descent to the underworld 'always with a sense of mulch beneath us', but, more importantly, the poet makes a space in which they can work. She doesn't try to do something clever or original with every line, but when the image comes it hits hard:
 
But these are women who went out like
   you
when dusk became a dark sweet with
   leaves,
recovering the day, stooping, picking up
teddy bears and rag dolls and tricycles
   and buckets -

love's archaeology - and they too like
   you
stood boot deep in flowers once in
   summer
or saw winter come in with a single
   magpie
in a caul of haws, a solo harlequin.


Like the other poets in this book, neither Stainer nor Boland is represented in Blake Morrison and Andrew ...


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