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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

PHASIC AFINALITY Anthony Barnett, North North, I Said, No, Wait a Minute, South, Oh, I don't Know (148 Political Poems) (Distributed by Allardyce, Barnett: 14 Mount Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1HL) £5.00 pb.

Anthony Barnett occupies an unique position in contemporary English poetry; whatever his affiliations, sources or analogues, the fact remains that no one here is doing anything at all similar. Indeed his writing might serve to remind us that with all our laboured admiration of such poets as Celan or Zukofsky, English poetry has a way of avoiding direct confrontation with such radical treatments of poetic language, and continuing on its own even way. The presence of a writer such as Barnett, who does take such examples very seriously, is necessary and healthy in a climate which can easily become incestuous. Although there are elements of an English tradition in his mode (one might recall the avant-garde phonetic play of such writers as Breton and Carew), he stands among us as an outsider with a different use of language. When such a function is performed with the assiduous care which is characteristic of him, it cannot but be beneficial; though it also creates difficulties for the reader acclimatized only to the easy demonstrative syntax of the English zoological lyric.

The key factor of his technique is surely the isolation of linguistic elements from each other. In each short poem most of the definable components (lines, sentences, phrases, sometimes individual words and at least once a single letter in a word) seem cut off from each other and yet demand an interconnection which is ambiguously denied and fulfilled. The reader is never allowed to relax into a singular connective ...


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