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This review is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

ARTS AND FASHIONS Jamie McKendrick, The Sirocco Room (OUP) £5.99
John Wilkinson, Bones of Contention (Prest Roots Press, 34 Alpine Court, Kenilworth, Warwickshire) £4.50
Paul Green, A Comparative Daimon (Prest Roots Press)
Desmond Graham, A Rumtopf For Summer (Villa Vic Press, 11 Newminster Road, Newcastle upon Tyne)
Desmond Graham, A Set of Signs For Chopin's Twenty Four Preludes (Villa Vic Press)
Humphrey Clucas, Unfashionable Song (Hippopotamus Press) £5.95

One would always like to say, on reading a young poet's first collection, 'Something really new at last'. Regrettably, though McKendrick has gifts and there are a few attractive pieces here, his work largely falls into the insipid genre that has become something of a fashion amongst some younger writers, and is rather too well-liked at the Poetry Book Society: that of the quasi-autobiographical anecdote ('quasi', because the episodes recounted are probably partly, mostly or entirely fictional), decked out with a number of predictable devices: the ending in which, despite portentous noises, more is not meant than meets the ear; the appearance of a 'you', usually (McKendrick being male) female, who serves the double purpose of establishing some kind of intimate situation the reader can 'relate to' and of providing the pretext for a spiral of 'poetic' thought; a cleverness of diction that points to nothing beyond its own appearance of cleverness ('the car hairpins like a cardiograph'); and a lot of arbitrary padding that falls apart when looked at closely and seems designed principally to establish a knowing and 'laid-back' tone.

A laid-back tone is not something John Wilkinson could be accused of. I do not pretend to understand his poems, despite having read some clotted, though not unintelligent, explication of some of them in the magazine fragmente, but what comes across is an extreme self-consciousness with respect to language and an unmitigated disgust with respect to almost everything else. The poems lack a Swiftian focus ...


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