Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Hal Coase 'Ochre Pitch' Gregory Woods 'On Queerness' Kirsty Gunn 'On Risk! Carl Phillips' Galina Rymbu 'What I Haven't Written' translated by Sasha Dugdale Gabriel Josipovici 'No More Stories' Valerie Duff-Strautmann 'Anne Carson's Wrong Norma'
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.

WAY THROUGH THE WOODS PAUL BATCHELOR, The Sinking Road (Bloodaxe) £7.95

Paul Batchelor's debut is a mish-mash of cultures, containing series of 'versions' of Ovid's Tristia and the Irish Buile Suibne, a part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and poems referring to Welsh legend, the Metamorphoses and Ukrainian troubadours. The mixture is unstable: when his Ovid complains of being exiled to 'a spit of land, a fistula / in the oxter of an Empire I once served' ('Tristia', II) the Latinate pathological term and Saxon body-part tug at each other across the line-break, a microcosm for the collection as a whole. The title of 'Blodeuwedd' refers to a woman in the Mabinogion, who was turned into an owl; then the poem begins 'Damned if I'm writing this / for Jenny Houlet' - which is, the notes inform us, a Northumbrian name for a barn-owl. The jump from one cultural zone to another requires of the reader erudition (or at least patience), and a willingness to cross cultural boundaries without explicit comment. A subtle but pervasive Poundianism inheres.

A persistent Northern inflection to his diction acts as a centripetal force; for instance his Suibne 'slept in ditches, / sossed milk from cow-blakes, / far from the warm / and blether of women' ('Suibne Plays Houseboy to the Hag of the Mill'). This drawing-together reveals deeper similarities: Ovid pines for his wife and life before exile; Suibne for his wife √Čorann and life before metamorphosis. The collection's title comes from ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image