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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

ORDER AND INSTABILITY Roger Garfitt, Given Ground (Carcanet) £6.95
Maura Dooley, Explaining Magnetism (Bloodaxe) £5.95
Robert Welch, Muskerry (Dedalus) £7.95, £4.95 pb
Lachlan Mackinnon, The Coast of Bohemia (Chatto & Windus) £5.99
Chris Bendon, Constructions (Gomer Press) £7.95
Tony Harrison, A Cold Coming: Gulf War Poems (Bloodaxe) £2.95

The first poem in Roger Garfitt's new collection, 'Buzzard Soaring', opens with this beautifully managed transformation:
 
So long grounded
in himself, under such
feather weight
he seems to rise
out of a sack.
A dead poundage
re-assembles on the wings
spread into a sycamore key
turning …


In poem after poem, Garfitt shows this delicacy and tact, this attention to transitions (music, said Wagner famously is an art of transitions, and so, surely, is poetry), the different run of the lines and the well-judged line-endings creating subtleties of emphasis - one thinks of the constant delicate adjustments that ripple through the wings of a soaring buzzard as they register the instabilities of the air. It is a manner of writing that offers a necessarily understated, but strong and salutary resistance to the hectoring, large-scale dissolutions of our experience now fashionable in the academy and in the arts, as it seeks to chart the ground that is given in our lives. At times, as in the excellent 'Rites of Passage', which is dedicated to the Welsh poet and translator Anthony Conran 'In the year of his marriage, the birth of his first child, and his father's death', the resistance is explicit; in this poem, the 'given ground' of language is shifting under the feet, as unhoused and unhousing locutions ('developmental life crises', 'maladaptive conflict situations', 'creative dying') take over, rather as in the publishing industry ...


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