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

VELOCITY NICKI JACKOWSKA, Lighting a Slow Fuse: New and Selected Poems (Enitharmon) £8.95

I followed on the telly the final Grand Prix of the Formula 1 World Championship which was relayed from Suzuka. Schumacher was the favourite and the tall Finn, Mika Hakkinen, won. When he is on the podium, during the moment before the national anthems, you can study a pilot's face after the fifty or so laps. It isn't that it necessarily has a special expression at that instant - it's in a special condition.

This is true for any pilot after any race, but because Hakkinen is blond and fair, and because three years ago in a trial-run in Adelaide he was almost killed (two days in a coma), it's plainer and more clear with him. All the skin of his head had been pulled back by the concentration and speed, and this stripping back had left his face unprotected, as men's faces seldom are. For a few seconds his face was naked like the crook of an arm or the small of a back. His eyes not yet refocused, still expecting the next corner.

This image comes to my mind now as I think about Nicki Jackowska's new book of poems. She is a woman, she has nothing to do with F.1, she doesn't long to win, she lives modestly, but her poems go fast, they pass unhesitatingly on double-bends, they brake at the last moment, and she writes to the limit: 'Each time mama-doll howls, I bandage my daughter's / wound with rose ...


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