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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

TARGET PRACTICE Jenny Joseph, Beyond Descartes (Secker & Warburg) £5.50
John Fuller, The Beautiful Inventions (Seeker & Warburg) £4.00
John Cooper Clarke, Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt (Arena) £2.50

Jenny Joseph's Beyond Descartes contains work of such fey awfulness it is at times almost beyond belief:


Fireflies bumbling in the dusk outside,
Forgive, contender, the frivolity
That makes us wish to take you on one side

And float you with us to enhance our glow
Leaving, defender, your stone of strength at risk
To such corrupting wavers to and fro.


Of course, 'stone of strength' isn't that bad (but how on earth can fireflies bumble?): not the least of the poet's problems is her palapable talent which, constantly subjected as it is to needless (though deeply well-intentioned) authorial interference, frequently resorts to mischief-making in the form of unconscious irony: 'These mirrored mirrors lead us nowhere fast.' One is bound to agree. 'Dipping for diamonds' provides a nice metaphor for the poet's creative process - and, alas, its usual outcome: 'Dipping for diamonds, we were./I almost scooped one up when I wasn't looking . . .'. The poet is forced to give up: 'We will have to make do with this grit then . . .'. The reader has to make do with an earful. It's not just that Joseph is often simply unable to get on with it, or that the concrete substructure of her poetry so soon becomes overloaded with Imaginative Reflection, but that in her persistent use of a vers libre for which she seems to have little ear she appears to ...


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