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This review is taken from PN Review 192, Volume 36 Number 4, March - April 2010.

QUICK - SLOW THOMAS A. CLARK, The Hundred Thousand Places (Carcanet) £9.95

The way to read Thomas A. Clark’s new book is from beginning to end at least twice: first quickly then slowly. It is a set of 84 short poems which follow a walk, or rather a walking process, passing through different seasons and far distant places, but all in the northern highland zones, wilderness and the edge of wilderness: moors, mountains, forests, and sea-shores. But what really engages us into this trek is the prosody - insistent two-beat lines like the placing of left and right foot again and again, occasionally lurching or stumbling but always pressing onwards from one poem to the next, and it is this relentless progress which the reader needs to grasp on a first reading, and thus enter the spaces of the poems, and worry later about the details.

As for what goes on in the poems, this is no simple matter. Clark has for many years been developing a wilderness and rural poetry by the skill of sheer mentioning, and it might have been possible to talk of minimalism, pastoralism, even orientalism. You may still come across a poem consisting of the names of sixteen moor-edge plant species, but for some time abstract terms have been carefully admitted to the structure and what we now have is a poetry as full and mindful as any other within the terms of its particular focuses.

‘what you feel / you can contain / what you see / you will become’ (p. ...


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