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This review is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

OBSERVING THE PROPERTIES Peter Robinson, This Other Life (Carcanet) £5.95 pb.
Peter Reading, Final Demands (Alison Press / Secker & Warburg) £5.00 pb.

Peter Robinson's poems are 'addresses' in both senses of the word - attempts to 'make a patch', if only that of the stanzaical patches on the page and strategies for accosting othernesses. The big change of address Robinson has undergone - from the industrial North West to the village and privilege of Cambridge - gives his poems their sense of rootlessness and their despair at ever establishing a correct and permanent mode of address.

For Robinson, to speak or to write is 'to talk other people's differences away', to trespass upon the 'musty, obscure/interior'. For Robinson's personages are as separate as the 'globules of rain water', which often in these poems settle on the windows demarcating inviolable privacies. Looking out through 'frosted glass', most forms of recognition are blurred, except the recognition of how 'we view[ed] each other differently'. 'Different' and its cognates is a privileged word in these poems, as is 'quiet': 'held off from the near unearthly quiet', 'That utter quietness of someone else's house / absorbing street noise', 'an overfaint quiet is thickening'. Robinson writes very well about silence: his best lines apprehend it. But he is aware that because it is impossible to 'utter quietness' all utterance constitutes a disturbance of the peace. So that to utter is, for this poet, to acknowledge stuttering, and to protest, that silence will eventually apprehend him - in death. Silence leaks into these poems, which are all built around pauses and line-endings, rather than stanzas or ...


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