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This review is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.

PARADIGMS, FABLES AND NOTES John Latham, From The Other Side of The Street £4.50
Bill Turner, Fables For Love: Poems New And Selected £4.50
Patricia McCarthy, A Second Skin £4.50. All published by Harry Chambers/Peterloo Poets, Treovis Farm Cottage, Upton Cross, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 5BQ.
Marge Piercy, My Mother's Body (Pandora Press Poetry) £4.95

In the absence of any definitive guide to the prize-winning poem - though Terry Eagleton has offered his paradigm of the Publishable Poem - aspirants might do worse than consult John Latham's new collection. It contains no fewer than nine such poems (six of them first-prize winners). It is not, of course, as if a competition paradigm were not already emerging: winning poems by Motion, Gross, Curtis et al. suggest that success lies in treating an historical anecdote (preferably from the World Wars, or failing that, from a disappearing, taciturn and artisanal way-of-life) so as to admit quotation (it may be lengthy) from extant documents, real or imagined, the experience being left to speak for itself: a not-so-secret narrative, perhaps. What the poem might lack in compulsion or inevitability would be compensated by the satisfying manner in which the images interlock (thus enacting continuities?) and by the merest hint of the symbolic. Latham's poems may depart from this paradigm in terms of subject-matter (as often as not these are 'family' poems, or what Geoffrey Hill with customary astringency has labelled 'home movies'), but their compactness and their air of completion is impressive. Not only prize-winners, then, but eminently publishable, too.

'Base Line Drift' finds 'the old man' in hospital, where the instruments of technology tell their own graphic tale ('Yellow against green/rippled saw-teeth/blink and stutter//moth-pinning him'):


She strokes his hair
- once sleek and black
as the moonlit badger

...


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