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

DOUBLE DISPLACEMENT JANET WILSON, Fleur Adcock (Northcote House Publishers, Writers and their Work Series) £12.99

I remember a conversation with Jackie Simms, then poetry editor at the Oxford University Press. I had enquired whether there might be some interest in a book on Fleur Adcock. She replied immediately, 'Do we need one?' Adcock had established herself as the queen of clarity who drew on her studies in the classics to create a poetic of lucid exposition. Even the gothic pieces - dreamscapes mostly - behaved decorously on the page.

My own attempt to break through the sheen of Adcock's poetry resulted in a monograph that stressed the Englishness of a poet who'd long battled with her New Zealand allegiances (Fleur Adcock in Context: From Movement to Martians, Edwin Mellen, 1997). Her final OUP collection - Looking Back, 1997 - had made a set of genealogical enquiries into her British ancestry as if trying to finesse the complication of that New Zealand connection.

Janet Wilson provides a biographical and quasi-psychoanalytical account. She chooses to read Adcock's work 'from the perspective of the life story' and we are reminded that Fleur Adcock arrived in London in January 1963 with her five-year-old son Andrew and a handful of published poems. Within a decade she had become 'one of Britain's foremost women poets'.

Drawing on her background in postcolonial studies, Wilson is keen to reconsider the surface calm of Adcock's poetry with its much documented prosodic discipline and re-position her work within the wider trajectory of diasporic writing. ...


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