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This review is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

STYLES, VISIONS AND SERIOUSNESS David Hartnett, House of Moon (Secker & Warburg) £5
Philip Gross & Sylvia Kantaris, The Air Mines of Mistila (Bloodaxe), £4.95
Ciarán Carson, The Irish for No (Bloodaxe) £4.95
Elmer Andrews, The Poetry of Seamus Heaney (Macmillan Press) £27.50

David Hartnett's new collection has been so immoderately praised that a few dissonant notes will not disturb the general harmony. Certainly, his verse looks well on the page and gives the impression of being poetry. Read silently and at speed, the often packed lines and profusion of clever imagery suggest to the eye that something is genuinely going on. It is when one stops to listen that doubts arise.


                    ... a statue of boy Pan
Peeping from his cloak of flakes, his caked pipes frozen.

Already treadmilling these chill chambers
I hug a sarcophagus heart-beat, ripple of marble.

The storm flown past, a wound awaited you:
At dawn leaf-haemorrhaged lawns that seeped to stain
The very house-wall: it was the chestnut, fallen.


One wonders to what extent Hartnett is aware of the way in which he constantly sets up tongue-twisting alliterative runs and clusters of assonance that disrupt the balance of the line, and of whole sections of poems. There must be some awareness, for no writer, I think, would fail to notice the alliteration and chiastic structuring of vowels in "his cloak of flakes, his caked pipes frozen", or the structure, created through assonance, of "At dawn leaf-haemorrhaged lawns" (though one suspects that Hartnett did not notice the irritating sequence "storm", "flown", "dawn", "lawns", "wall", "fallen", which seems merely accidental). But what surely has not been seen is the way such structures ...


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