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This review is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

FLIRTING Kit Wright, Bump-Starting the Hearse (Hutchinson) £4.95

'It's the age', complained the sage of Tooting, 'One foot's obsessed with progress, one's in the grave' ('The Field Researchers', Treble Poets 1, Chatto, 1974). Admirers of Kit Wright's sharply melancholic light verse are bound to feel a certain apprehensiveness even as they delight in his splendidly entertaining new collection Bump-Starting the Hearse. The problem is that Wright's talent seems to be disintegrating under the conflicting pressures of his theme. The sad, fatalistic songs of resignation are operating in increasing isolation from what have become random (albeit often brilliantly inventive) tours de force of comedy or protest. The imaginative middle ground that made The Bear Looked Over The Mountain (Salamander Imprint, 1977) such a fertile collection seems to have largely disappeared. What's emerged is a poetry newly rich in personality, but lacking the search, the experimental vigour and ironic distancing of the best early work. The writer who could once make his poetry rave with such startling eloquence now often seems to be merely flirting with despair.

The personality remains, however, an extremely attractive one, and the verse is as technically adroit as ever. In both kinds of poem I've indicated we find work that is perfect as far as it goes. Take the sly, wry 'The Power of Prayer':

Very, very little of his garden
  Did God elect to seed.
The rest he leased to utter, outer blankness,
  Invaded by the rankness
    Of not a single weed.

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