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This review is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

ICE AND GLASS Elizabeth Smither, Shakespeare Virgins (Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press) £7.95 pb.
Ian Wedde, Tales of Gotham City (Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press) $10.50 pb.
C. K. Stead, Poems of a Decade (Pilgrims South Press)

Elizabeth Smither, to describe her in terms borrowed from one of her own earlier poems, moves quietly as an ice-skater over glass. In her writing there is no fuss, no loudness, no incivility, no gaucherie. This new collection shows her voice of persuasive, exploratory quietness at its strongest and most attractive:

Behind the bare branches of the walnut
A midwinter sky of clearest stars
In which was being enacted a theorem:
To starboard a star was falling
To port a plane twinkling its landing gear.

That is all of a poem wryly titled 'Almost too much for a poem', and it is typical in that it links a human vastness of subject (realizing the scale of the seasons, and the smallness of the self) with the self-effacing modesty of treatment. 'Almost too much for a poem' concludes Shakespeare Virgins, but Elizabeth Smither deftly creates a unification for the collection by printing a companion-piece, 'A skyful of stars', a third of the way through:

Look up and they're word perfect
As you always knew: equations, theorems
The molecular structures like winding stairs
And the explanation of plants, their roots
That may be of air or earth, wherever
The desirable water is, a loving gaze.

This six-line celebration is remarkably rich, in an understated way: while the fire of the stars joins air, earth and water ...

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