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This review is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

APPROACHING THE COMMONPLACE David Chaloner, Hotel Zingo (Grosseteste) n.p.

This book issues from a poet (and indeed from a press) whose characteristic approaches have been quiet in theme, restrained in tone, and productive habitually of a careful verbal painting of self-and-landscape during acts of perception, moments perfectly ready to repress much in the service of accurate meditation; poems of seeing as the basis for a poetry of knowledge. To an even greater extent than the author's previous work, Hotel Zingo is constructed on the grounds of this low-key but exacting phenomenological enquiry; the result is a risky enterprise, but it is also David Chaloner's best book.

The poems, nearly all of which are given dates, cover a span of seven years through which a spectrum of selfhood can be retrospectively calibrated, between on the one hand control of the things of one's world, and on the other, being under the sway of the world. This is done persistently and most impressively through an attention to clouds and light. At one extreme 'The afternoon is moody but approachable' ('Bulletin'), stating the poet's own pretension through a mirror of the weather, but at the other extreme in a sustained passage too substantial to excerpt, from a poem beginning 'All the alternatives unite . . .', the first person is driven into second place by the restless evidence of a changing sky. Most of the poems are worked from apprehensive points between the two extremes, 'The discreet nudge of the weather/answering your look' ('January') 'to verify the hazard of ...


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