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This review is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

PARADISE UNDERWRITTEN David Constantine, Madder, Bloodaxe Books, £4.95 pb
Ted Walker, Hands at a Live Fire, Seeker, £9.95
William Scammell, Eldorado, Peterloo Poets, £4.50 pb

His book is named, David Constantine explains, after Madder the plant, Rubia tinctorum, from which comes a deep red dye. 'The roots are the thing, that is where the redness is, in the thick, proliferating, energetic roots.' And this holds both for the plant and the poems, whose new flowers of polyglot myth and symbol - Orpheus, Yseut, Don Giovanni, Pan, Christ - push through, colouring a very varied show of situational pictures.

The pictures themselves - a man fantasizing beside his sleeping wife, a corpse in a confessional, beachcombers gathering a harvest of flotsam fruit - have strong lines and concrete locations. Only at times are these undermined by a kind of emotional fuzzy-focusing, as though - to take the collection's master-myth - the loss of Eden has somehow been insured.

Adam and Eve open the collection and within its terms theirs is primarily a family story. Later, in 'Apples', the poet watches two children (his own) in a tree. They are picking apples and lobbing them down, to be caught or missed by the adults beneath. There is well-being in this orchard, a harmless licence bounded by familial ties, a prelapsarian sport unspoiled by 'old Mr McGregor or God the Father'. The children in the tree - a boy 'blonder than corn' and 'munching' daughter - and the grandfather as 'Green Man' share themselves and their afternoon with a multiplicity of mythic forms; not just Eden's single apple, but 'Apples'. Both family portrait ...


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