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This review is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

READING THE LIGHT C.K WILLIAMS, Repair (Bloodaxe) £7.95
PAULINE STAINER, Parable Island (Bloodaxe) £7.95

One of the strengths of the Bloodaxe list is the diversity of voices it represents: Repair and Parable Island are united by their evident seriousness of purpose and the high quality of their respective achievements, but they differ radically in tone and approach.

Williams' collection is the more immediately accessible of the two, anecdotal, colloquial, often defiantly mundane in its focus. 'The Cup' is characteristic in these respects, an expansive, loose-lined recollection of his mother's coffee-drinking habits:

There'd be a tiny pause as though she
        had consciously to synchronize
        her mouth and hand,
then her lips would lengthen and reach
        out, prehensile as a primate's tail,
and seem to grasp the liquid with the
        sputtering suctioning of gravity
        imperfectly annulled.

But the poem, like so much of Williams' work, is less straightforward than it might appear. The explicitly acknowledged 'loathing and despair' induced in the child by this morning ritual are importantly qualified by the mature poet's obvious and engaging relish for the texture of ordinary things. And the ordinary, as Williams repeatedly reminds us, aspires incessantly to some other condition: in 'Shoe' a white shoe left out on a sill 'tilts oddly upwards', its 'elevation' both literal and metaphoric as it transforms itself, under the poet's gaze, into a satyr, representative of a dimension beyond 'our meager world' and an emblem of 'that passion to be other than we are.'

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