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

NORTH AND SOUTH Christopher Reid, In the Echoey Tunnel (Faber) pb £4.99
David Sutton, Settlements (Peterloo Poets) pb £4.95
Hilary Davies, The Shanghai Owner ofthe Bonsai Shop (Enitharmon) pb £6.95
David Morley, Mandelstanz Variations (Littlewood) pb £5.95

If you came across a poem about a lunchtime pub brawl which ended:
 
It recalled something
I'd seen long ago in a wildlife
   programme about
one of those grim, antiquatedIy-armoured
   species
for whom the sexual act, through a whim
   of nature's,
has been made almost impossible to carry
   out


you might be amused by the detachment. If you then came across a poem by the same author about Monet which began
 
The house at Giverney has been turned
   into a museum
supported, you learn at the gate, by
   American funds.
A few francs get you into both house and
   grounds.
The main attraction is the celebrated
   garden


you might wonder if the detachment was a disadvantage. Both examples are from Christopher Reid's new book, a collection which reads as a self-conscious attempt to assimilate the excesses of his rather dandified Martianism into a 'normalized' discourse. The first quotation could be said to show this in action and the blurb's talk of 'coaxing … eloquence from difficult circumstances' suggests Reid is currently more concerned with material than method. The second quotation shows, albeit in a rather extreme manner, what happens in large areas of the book when Reid abandons the method that made him famous.

Martianism is a difficult discipline. The achievements of Craig Raine are, for the ...


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