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This review is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

EMBRACING THE REAL Geoffrey Holloway, All I can say (Anvil Press) £2.50

These poems are described on the book's cover as "a wide selection . . . from many years of writing"-this is worth bearing in mind, especially for the kind of potential buyer who tends only to glance at the first few pages of a book, because this is very much a book which changes and develops as it goes along. The opening poems-most of them set in the animal kingdom-show a poet who is deft and quick to exploit vivid comparisons: the moon, in one poem, is "like a fuzzy apricot", and another has "the hooligan jays cranking their football-rattles", while on the shore is

The edible crab:
a Cornish pasty trying
to pinch its own crust.

All well observed and elegant-but set in territory by now so familiar that impact is bound to be limited. But the reader should persist: not to do so would be to miss some excellent poems. Even so, if he does persist, he must weather the war poems which follow, and which seem to me to constitute the weakest part of the book. I can see how, as a theme, war and its gruesome results may require the kind of distance implied by Mr. Holloway's stance, but too many of these poems read like mild Voltairean nudges in the ribs of Providence, and are short without achieving the resonance which brevity needs to be fully effective. The strongest poems in this section are ...

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