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This review is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

THE HAUNTED THEATRE John Mole, In and Out of the Apple (Secker & Warburg) £5.95

John Mole's new collection, his fourth in seven years, develops many of the themes of the three preceding books, and does so with a plain strength, technical brilliance and elegant bleakness which are characteristic. Impeccably cool and graceful in his use of language, Mole has a vision of the world which is, in the best and Shakespearian sense, a stagey one. Many of his poems have to do with artists of one kind or another - circus performers, Punch and Judy shows, painters, musicians - and often the people he describes are seen through some sort of proscenium arch: the picture frame, lost childhood, family relationships or expectations (particularly those of father and son), or the perspective of the book's epigraph from Conrad ('These, too, are things human, already distant in their appeal').

Onstage all is often far from well. As one poem ('Incident at Snape') puts it - 'The booth advertises/ Theatre of Delights/But here is a far from/Peaceable kingdom.'. In this world conventions do not quite manage to convince those for whose protection they may have been intended, or their heirs; feelings do not quite fit and fulfil - and however compassionately the poet witnesses such failure, there lurks under the surface a rage all the more tense for being half smothered. Life, it seems, is as enigmatic as the bafflement of the child in another poem, 'The Birthday', who cannot understand what he may have done wrong, and sees his parents clearly upset in ...


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