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This review is taken from PN Review 129, Volume 26 Number 1, September - October 1999.

TASTY LOCUTIONS DERYN REES-JONES, Signs Round a Dead Body (Seren) £6.95
JEFFREY GREENE, American Spirituals (Northeastern University Press) £9.50

Tasty locutions bob on the discursive surface of Deryn Rees-Jones' poems: 'little gods of noise' managing the mess of rain and semen, of satiety and longing, these nuggets pose a problem for the relationship between familiar and new terms that sets Signs Round a Dead Body on unstable ground. The poems have Things to Say, the kind of Things that can upset poetry with their extremes of prosaic or unutterable sense, like the fact that somebody you love has experienced worlds that don't include you ('The Fish' - acknowledgements to Elizabeth Bishop) or that in the middle of loving sometime it is possible to find them repulsive (from 'Songs of Despair').

The mouthfuls of poetry that pepper all this Saying are poised between originality and cliché, from 'desire like terror, / A sticklebacked wave' ('Song for Winter') to a 'Dance with the clammy ghosts of chance' ('Horoscopes'). Often deliciously physical, they have a tendency to nag at the poetic momentum they would propel by recalling phrases from elsewhere, just at the moment when originality seems most required. Sometimes this is tactical, for example when 'the clear hot waters of some tropical isle' invoke glossy platitudes in order to recreate the tension between wonder and ennui at a lover's previous exploits; more often the familiarity is a phrasal echo from another poet. There are Plathy oddments (especially the way 'little' is used), a Sophie Hannahesque beginning ('Making Out') and Elizabeth Bishop turns ('Midnight Beach at Sizewell B'; 'What ...


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