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

POETRY AND STRIPTEASE D. M. Thomas, Selected Poems (Secker and Warburg) £6.95

Those readers who found it tedious to have to struggle through the pornographic first third of The White Hotel may as well be warned straight away that most of this book is like that. The first poem in this selection sets the key note, with red-stained Kleenex and a diaphanous half-slip. A page or so further on, after the catalogue of 'eyes, lips, hair, fingers, breasts and smiles and bottom,/blouse, skirt, suspenders, sweater, stockings' and so on, the girl who was 'demonstrative last night' is suddenly 'inviolate in fresh school-blouse'. A couple of pages further a villanelle takes as one refrain line 'Be great to fuck you on the dunes'. Lorca's sensitive representation of women is condensed into this haiku: 'House of Bernarda Alba./ Absorbing, cloistral./Vulva without doors.' Turn the pages and there are the fisher-girl's 'long, wading thighs'. Even the windscreen is flecked with 'rain like sperm'. More limbs, more thighs, more small pert breasts. Here are six lines from 'The Book of Changes': 'She gashes open,/tangy, moist,/a great/fruit that/has not/been eaten.' A poem called 'Flesh' is about a 'warm cunt' and some poking, which is labelled 'indecent'. 'Weddings' is a dialogue between the Girls and the Boys: guess the topic of conversation. Then there's a poem called 'Poetry and Striptease' and even, in case we missed it when we read The White Hotel, an extract from 'Don Giovanni': 'It was too dark to reach the white hotel/that night, and so we fucked again, and slept' and so ...


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