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This review is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

FORTIFYING FICKLENESS CHRISTIANIA WHITEHEAD, The Garden of Slender Trust (Bloodaxe) £6.95
DEBORAH GARRISON, A Working Girl Can't Win (Faber) £7.99
INGRID DE KOK, transfer (Snailpress) R45.60

The Garden of Slender Trust displays 'riche portraitures' that are beautiful and grim by turns until the distinction yields, leaving premeditated thrills:

            You've chipped

at my heart with such whimsy
and certitude it's performing
a gentle scream in the bowels

of my chest.

This phrasing wrapped over stanza edges is Christiania Whitehead's trademark, as if there were a pervading rhythm in her head into which words are drawn. So calm they're almost flat, these lines encase a skittering, clipped diction, belying their composure with the feeling everything could all go mad at any moment. Wrangling with the most refractory faith, she makes George Herbert look as if he never did a proper day's doubting in his life. She's the witch in the convent,

Between the geometry and the lithe flecked
sprawling cream carried by nuns
in large jugs, is an area in parentheses
where I keep pulling on my ugly clothes
and don't change. Here I urge murder,

and circle the kitchen, curdling soup and
touching up milk suspiciously.

Cramped and warped by institutional religion, belief is instead discovered and defined on its own terms here. God is made personal in a way I'd never thought possible - erotic, earthly, hurtful:

Is God not there? Under a new sky
a doorbell rings. He has come. He has come.
His ...


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