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

THE WORD FUTURE Brian Jones, The Island Normal (Carcanet New Press Ltd.) pb £2.95.

Brian Jones's earlier collections displayed a virtuoso energy which pinned the conventions of human behaviour wriggling to the page and painted, with the freshness of new discovery, a world of vitality there for the finding if we can only forget the shackles of humdrum routines. The Island Normal displays the same capacity for irreverent social observation: the wives at a launching party for a new car 'nuzzling older influentials with their uplifts' also implies advancing their husbands' careers. There is the same ability to incorporate colloquialisms - 'bum kid', 'arsey-versey' - naturally into the poetic idiom, and to extract poetry out of everyday events and to draw more than one layer of meaning out of simple language - the hostess after a party noticing how, love-making over, her husband is 'snoring and gone small'.

Most of the poems fall into two sequences. The first is a loose group set in contemporary England. Individually the best poems are (what one takes for granted in Jones) impeccably observed and full of phrases which unfold fresh meanings on rereading. Together they form a now sardonic, now elegiac assessment of modern life. Underlying the precise swoop of language in which Jones delights is a sombreness, a sense of lost purpose, that some of his earlier poems hinted at but relegated to the wings. The first poem sets the tone. Human endeavour comes down to the garaging of a hot car as travellers stop 'somewhere in England at a place/nondescript, halfway to ...


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