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This review is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.

CELEBRATING AND CEREBRATING Marge Piercy, Stone, Paper, Knife (Pandora Press), £3.95 pb.
Penelope Shuttle, The Child-Stealer (OUP), £4.95 pb.

Stone, Paper, Knife is the first full-length collection of verse by Marge Piercy to appear in the UK. This American poet and novelist is evidently prolific, having published eight collections of verse in the USA as well as a quantity of fiction, some of which is available on this side of the Atlantic. If the amount published is to be regarded as a reassuring criterion of worth, then Stone, Paper, Knife might be expected to be the work of a mature poet, who has left behind the callowness, unevenness and infelicities of 'first collections', having traded them in for more developed qualities - not least of which is the self-reflexive, editorial ear. Regrettably, such an expectation proves to be unfounded in this case.

Stone, Paper, Knife falls into four sections - almost four 'movements', since the second section, 'In the Marshes of the Blood River', is uncharacteristically meditative, and the final section, 'Elementary Odes', reads as an affirmative coda to the rest of the work. The collection begins with a section entitled 'Mrs Frankenstein's Diary', whilst the penultimate 'movement', 'Digging In', centres on the consolidations of loss and the beginnings of a new, homosexual love. As such titles imply, the whole work reads as a chronological and thematic succession, starting with 'conventional' (unsuccessful) marriage, moving through areas of doubt and celebratory solitude, extending (rather awkwardly) to embrace wider ecological concerns, and concluding with a tentative hopefulness: 'Hope sleeps in our bones like a bear/waiting for spring to ...


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