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

OUT ON THE RIM John Burnside, The Hoop, (Carcanet) £5.95 pb.
John Fuller, The Grey Among the Green, (Chatto) £4.95 pb.
George Szirtes, Metro, (Oxford) £4.95 pb.

If one thing links these collections together, it's the colour green. That may not seem a particularly significant connection except that green is a peculiarly dual colour - it's the colour of growth and of putrefaction. In 'Grandfather in Green', for instance, Szirtes refracts it into a full spectrum. At one end of the range it illuminates his grandfather's fresh, if slightly acid, character, whilst at the other it darkens into 'the green / smell of gas still lingering in the hut'. Genocide is also green.

Fuller and Burnside, on the other hand, unpick the ambiguities of our 'green and pleasant land'. The country Burnside writes of is alive with the past and its myths. Even the animals - bears, wolves and mystic foxes - seem to have walked out of a Medieval bestiary. They persist in lurking beyond the pale even though 'everyone knows the wolf does not exist.' Burnside is, in fact, obsessed by the dark, magical world outside the fragile, human 'hoop of light' - a division he also extends into the psyche. Inevitably humanity doesn't come off too well. At best humans manifest themselves as tidy-minded gardeners, amateur botanists and Victorian children 'watching their night for claws.'

Approaching this fundamental duality from a number of angles, Burnside explores the polarities of his vision in controlled, solid verse. He is capable of drawing things into the light only to show up further the darkness around them. However, whilst images like those of ...


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