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


Paumukkale, Paphos, Alexandria, Ouranoupoli - Gabriel Levin's second collection dazzles the reader with exotic names as we embark with him on his journey through the Mediterranean and the Levant. He has thoughtfully compiled an indispensable series of reference notes to help us along the remote trail; but if the journey to understand is at times thorny and arduous, we come away from these poems enriched by their scope and haunted by their affirmation of the survival of consciousness in the face of time and death. The poems are richly layered, musical explorations of the act of translation, from experience into art, and from the ancient world into the present. This is the poem 'In Paumukkale' in full:

I'd been walking in circles in the hooded
dark of the village below Hieropolis' white ridge,
    trying to relocate the whereabouts

of my pension, when I first heard
the high whiplash, followed by a wilful throb,
    a sort of deadpan guffaw, the doubled

voice of a ventriloquist, pitched
across the empty lot. Ah, I said, and loitered,
    intent upon threading
the needle of its song. And the mountains

on all sides huddled solemn as Hittites,
lying in wait in the high passes. Ah, I repeated,
    as I turned down the road, what
signs and wonders lead me on.

The suspense of the traveller finds expression in the sustained tension of ...

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