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This review is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

AN INTERESTING PLACE L. E. Sissman, Hello, Darkness: Collected Poems (Secker) £7.95

L. E. Sissman died in 1974, at forty-nine years of age, and these are his collected poems, largely written or re-written in the last ten years of his life, in expectation of his death, in fact. All the influential sins of his near-contemporaries in verse are missing from this book; no analysis of sessions of analysis, no divorce dirt, no suicidals. The poems describe his sense of impending death without histrionics: one late poem foresees it as a military ceremony, being stripped to the ranks, where he and his friends who go to take leave are

. . . dots on the rock
That jags two thousand metres high ahead
Of us above the passes where the dead
Take formal leave of life . . .

Finally, the body falls 'into an air that crawls/With all the arts of darkness far below'.

This is the work of a scrupulous writer, though not the overall tone of the book which is made up of a flexible verse able to narrate or describe at length, as in the impressive sequence 'A War Requiem' which spans forty years of history, joining together sections in a series of cinematic scenes-incidents, close-ups, stills. Section 3, 1935, begins:
The bank owned half the county when it failed
The second crop of hay, uncut, unbaled
Stands sentry to a country town in shock . . .

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