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This review is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

RACES RUN AIDEN MATTHEWS, According to the Small Hours (Cape) £8.00
ROBERT CRAWFORD, Spirit Machines (Cape) £8.00
MICHEAL LONGLEY, Selected Poems (Cape) £8.00
MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Approximately Nowhere (Faber and Faber) £7.99
CHRIS ORSMAN, South (Faber and Faber) £7.99

In According to the Small Hours, Aidan Matthews plots a course many miles clear of what we might expect from the poetry of family and home life. These poems rove across 'an apostolic succession of flesh and blood, / Of bodies squeezed from bodies that were squeezed from bodies / Before them in the landlocked scheme of our brokenness' ('Advent'). The deceased mingle unabashed with the living, flouting sequential patterns and idealization. Syndromes, comas, strokes, cancers, surgery, all the shocks that flesh is heir to on the journey from womb to deathbed, are omnipresent. In 'Triptych from a Clinic', the 'Anglo-Saxon explorer discovers the treasure house is his tomb': Matthews constantly prompts us to see the tomb-treasure house reality of our human condition.

'Nothing they say translates our speechlessness'; 'Nothing we have done is in the dictionary' ('Psalms for a Manual'). The gauntlet is down and Matthews joins battle armed with his 'own wrangling language' ('Working through the Night'). Lines like long, even waves rush at the regular shorelines of couplet, tercet, quartet and sestet, with strong, emphatic words in key positions to prevent any squandering of rhythm. Expanding on all sorts of intimations from his two previous collections of the late seventies and early eighties, Matthews is giddily aware of his liberation and 'writes things down that I could never imagine, / Yahweh and Fuck, that used to be dashes and stars'. Nothing is balked at, not even 'the flaps of my mother's ruined vagina'.

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