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This review is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

POSTCARDS HOME Oliver Reynolds, The Player Queen's Wife (Faber) £3.95 pb.
Charles Boyle, Sleeping Rough (Carcanet) £5.95 pb.

Reading Oliver Reynolds' The Player Queen's Wife, I for some reason found myself recalling a Russell Davies cartoon, published when the world was young and even the Review was not yet New: it depicted a particularly dyspeptic-looking Kingsley Amis, seated amidst malignant Christmas decorations, reading a book entitled 'God-Awful Rubbish Perpetrated by Some Juvenile Lefty Fart (copyright J. L. Fart, 1972)'. The strength of the cartoon, of course, is that it bounces in both directions and in the process illustrates a familiar problem with poetry reviewing: here, the sour reader might decide, is another bright young Faber poet parading his winebar credibility in a set of fragmented jottings, literary jokes and sardonic nods in the direction of European Culture.

So far, so true: but Oliver Reynolds does all this very well, and much more besides. The book's opening sequence, 'Rorschach Writing', about different kinds of dereliction in a hospital where he once worked, demonstrates Reynolds' welcome gift of simple fluency. The twelve short pieces genuinely enrich and support each other, creating a coherent polyphonic texture: apparently random props which appear in the first poem ('2 half-eaten Eccles cakes', 'pages torn from an E3a logbook') resurface later, gaining unexpected significance as the sequence develops. Reynolds relishes his literary debts: the monologue of Part 6 is pure Eliot, while the sharp juxtaposition of brutal detail and an unfailingly civilized tone, here and elsewhere in the book, recalls early Peter Porter.

Though there is too much in-jokery in ...


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