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

SOUTHERN SOUNDINGS Mark O'Connor, Selected Poems (Hale & Iremonger) £5.95 pb.

Mark O'Connor is observant, passionate, talkative, sensuous, alert to history natural and human, and prone to protest rather too much. When he is good he persuades me that a human being civilized in both the understanding and the senses is responding fully to an involvement with wonder. When he is bad he writes not poetry but creative writing gone berserk.

This second half of 'Frigate-birds', a poem of the mid-1970s, seems to me to show some of O'Connor's strengths:


Ten minutes they hang on our island's upstream, fixed
till a flick of the half-disjointing wings
has them turned for home. Forty miles away:
they will go at the speed Earth pleases,
hold us still in their view
till a hill locks us out of the sunset.

Orion, to us the lounging summer giant
of Southern sleepless nights, stretches
and points them home, creatures of speed and air
wave-bolstered, sun-lifted,
sea-fed.


Many of O'Connor's earlier poems are about sea-birds: he takes long, caring looks at his fellow-creatures, and tries honestly to suppress the anthropomorphic reflex and equally the imposition of Hughesian world-views. On this foundation of quiet and dedicated observation, O'Connor builds a sense of each creature's necessary and distinct place in creation, and of the creature's relation to that creation: 'they will go at the speed Earth pleases', they are 'creatures of speed and air'. There is a ...


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