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This review is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

WHERE THE HEART IS Norman Nicolson, Sea to the West (Faber) £5.95 cased, £3.00 pb

Sea to the West is Norman Nicolson's fifth Faber collection. Its immediate predecessor, A Local Habitation (1972), was greeted as a genial work and recommended for its colloquial modesties. A relaxed assurance in the rhythms corresponded closely to a friendly speaking voice in poems that intimately identified Cumbrian landscape/townscape with its inhabitants and their history-the collective and the personal coming together in recreated incidents from the poet's own past. However, a question mark hung over it: Nicolson had responded to the 1968 closing-down of the Millom ironworks, which had dominated and given life to the town in which he has lived his life, by having to admit a 'cold wind' into his world:


And what's the use of knowing
Which way the wind is blowing
Whichever way it blows it's a cold wind now.


Sea to the West collects poems that have been handsomely printed in pamphlet form (Stitch and Stone, Ceolfrith, 1975 and The Shadow of the Black Combe, MidNag, 1978) along with a handful of poems from recent periodicals, principally Poetry Review. Nicolson's familiar home-bred images ('knick-knack conceits' he calls them) are here and sometimes released with a humour which is reminiscent of early advertisements for Guinness or Bovril:


Wool-end and wisp materialize
Like ectoplasm, are twined
And crocheted to an off-white
Over-the-lug-hole hug-me-tight
And Black Combe's ram's-head butting at the bright
Turfed and brackeny brine,
Gathers ...


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