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This review is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

HABITATIONS AND NAMES PETER DALE, Local Habitation (Anvil) £8.99
RUTH BIDGOOD, Time Being (Seren) £7.99
JULIA BIRD, Hannah and the Monk (Salt) £12.99

When you’ve been publishing for four decades, how do you come up with a title for your new book? As John Shade (in Nabokov’s Pale Fire) wrote, ‘Help me, Will!’ The advantage of a quotation from Shakespeare is that you can use half a line, and the rest is implied. So Peter Dale’s new book has Local Habitation for a name – but perhaps names are more important to it than places. The poems form an eight-part narrative sequence, involving three characters: Dan, his ‘feisty, earth-earthy’ first love, Gill, and his later wife, Jo. The story traces the vagaries of love, separation, birth and death, told through the characters in a series of lyrics.

Dale is a respected user of traditional forms (especially in his terza rima Dante and rhymed translations of Valéry, Villon, etc.), and the majority of the poems are in rhyme and metre; some even form sonnets and villanelles. A simple system of indentation is used to show who’s speaking:

Dan Gill Jo

If time reversed, or frayed
until the self were freed,

        we shall meet, ghost to ghost,
        vacuous, outraged, aghast,

        as in rough justice we should,
        the mind’s attritus be shared,

        what more is left to say
        to aural vacancy?

                             Have a look-say? Fat chance,
                             Wavers of scéantific chintz,

                             sound-bites guessing the fare
                             across the ionosphere.

                                                                        (‘Voices in the ...


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