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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

PRIVATE WORDS, PRIVATE WORLDS Carole Satyamurti, Broken Moon (OUP) £4.95 pb.
Christian McEwen (ed.), Naming the Waves: Contemporary Lesbian Poetry (Virago) £5.95 pb.

'You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow flying over your head, but you can prevent them building nests in your hair (Chinese proverb)' is the epigraph to a poem entitled 'Letter from Szechuan' in Carole Satyamurti's Broken Moon. It could stand as epigraph to the whole volume. This is not, however, a sad book; there is an embrace of life despite its pain. Satyamurti never drops into comforting cliché and her perspective is always fresh. A war photographer speaks of his distress at the gap in his story: that between a published photograph - of a little girl in a wartorn city carrying her baby brother - and the one he missed when, as 'the first bomb of the morning' fell,'... she dropped her burden / and, mouth too small for her dark scream, began to run...' ('War Photographer'). The published caption, 'Even in hell the human spirit / triumphs over all', he recognizes as a simplistic lie. Broken Moon sets out to do away with simplistic lies by quietly observing the complexity of human emotions. What comes through in the end is an unsentimental affirmation of the strength and importance of bonds of love, family and friendship.

The title poem is dedicated to her handicapped daughter, Emma: 'Twelve, small as six, / ... my daughter, / child of genetic carelessness, / walks uphill, always'. Yet Emma has a determination and inner energy which compel admiration:


Chopin will not yield to her stiff ...


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