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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

FIZZ Bill Manhire, Zoetropes (Carcanet) £4.95 pb.
C. K. Stead, Paris (Oxford University Press, Auckland) £7.50 pb.
Kevin Ireland, Practice Night in the Drill Hall (Oxford University Press) £8.50 pb.
Albert Wendt, Shaman of Visions (Oxford University Press, Auckland) £7.95 pb.

Zoetropes is a selection from Bill Manhire's previous collections, The Elaboration (1972), How to Take Off Your Clothes at the Picnic (1977) and Good Looks (1982), plus eight new poems, and confirms Manhire as one of the freshest and most exhilarating poets now working in English. One of the new poems, 'A Scottish Bride', succeeds so wonderfully that I marvel anyone else bothers to write poetry at all. The poem opens with an understated fluency fetching up in a punch of a question:

Long division and underprivilege,
sweets in a paper twist; or later,
hiking in the hills, days

like the fizz of flowers in a vase
she carried to a neighbour's house,
a war bride with a photograph of home,
and her own house on a single pulse
of stone, lapped by the tidal starlight.
Whose days were those?

It would be easy, as we admire the exact and sympathetic observation, to overlook the technical mastery which so coolly tautens these loose tercets: the recurring l launching lines and clauses alike, the uninsistent alliteration of h and f and s, and, subtly, the interplay of lighter voiceless s and dragging, caught voiced s, notched home in the brief cluster of the question. And it would be easy, as we admire this accomplishment, to overlook the neat childhood yokings of the first line and a half; the unexpected aptness of ...

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