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This review is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

SOMETHING CRASSLY NATURAL Brian Jones, The Children of Separation (Carcanet) £4.95 pb.
Jon Glover, Our Photographs (Carcanet) £4.95 pb.

The Barbizon school lends its name to one of the poem-sequences in Brian Jones's eighth collection and, whether or not Jones is an admirer of its art, one is tempted to discover parallels between painters and poet. What attracted mid-nineteenth century artists to the area was a reaction against picturesque and allegorical expressions of Romanticism: artists were to concentrate on the simple and ordinary, insisting, for example, that landscape be allowed to remain landscape merely; they were, as one critic has it, to 'listen for the "voice" of each site'.

In Jones's poem, the protagonist muses on 'Marguerites in a green glass' and wonders how we came 'not to trust these mundane plenitudes'. In the gallery's 'monastic room on stilts', a turn of the head reveals:


a landscape of distances that shocks a window
and you breathe freely to recognise

the plenitude of the commonplace,
the breadlike availability of the strange.


In a poetry of contemplative realism, as in the world it describes, it is 'the ordinary that shocks' ('Earth Landing') and there can be little more ordinary than marguerites (flowers that also inspire the beautifully realized miniature 'Merely an impulse to beautify'). Even tragedy and whole-scale disaster are seen as the result of 'something crassly natural' ('Four Poems, 2 Aftermath'). As to form, well, of the volume's thirty-four poems, twenty-four are (unrhymed) sonnets or sonnet-sequences, while others adopt three-, four- or, in one instance, ...


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