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This review is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

FOSSILS AND CREATURES Elizabeth Bartlett, Look, No Face (Redbeck Press) £4.95
Philip Callow, Notes Over a Chasm (Redbeck Press) £3.00
Dave Cunliffe, Blackburn Brainswamp (Redbeck Press) £3.45
Alan Dent, Bedtime Story (Redbeck Press) £3.00
Geoffrey Holloway, The Strangest Thing (Redbeck press) £3.00
Patricia Pogson, A Crackle From The Larder (Redbeck Press) £3.00
Harold Massingham, Sonatas and Dreams (Littlewood Arc) £5.95
David Craig, The Grasshopper's Burden (Littlewood Arc) £5.95
Landeg White, The View From The Stockade (Dangaroo Press) £5.95

I supose I still harbour a 'romantic' view of the small presses as spotters and nurturers of overlooked talent. It is perhaps almost a necessary belief. Dave Cunliffe's pamphlet is, however, a reminder that small presses can quite often be places for types of poetry one imagined had either fallen into disuse or become completely extinct. Cunliffe edits Global Tapestry Journal and those who know the magazine will be unsurprised by Blackburn Brainswamps' mixture of adolescent schlock and '60s echoes. There are short poems with titles like 'The Two Hour Assassination of God' and 'Short cut crash trip', a long poem about freedom with thanks to various psychotropic drugs and a description of a country walk which ends with the poet 'Unsure how to communicate discoveries/ to spring survivors from urban jails'. Bubbling up through all this is the nasty brew of individual irresponsibility and fascistic fascination with violence found more often in the agitprop of Class War than in collections of verse.

Philip Callow's Notes Over A Chasm is, in contrast, a quieter affair being concerned with approaching death and a yearning for some final redemption from the self. Its essential subject is self-pity, as in Ben Jonson's 'My Picture Left in Scotland'. Callow is not a Jonson but his work at least lacks the educated smugness that appears when, for example, Stephen Romer starts telling us about lost loves. Notes is not a thing of joy but I can quite see how it might offer ...


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