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This review is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

SAYING WHAT'S HAPPENING Michael Cullup, Reading Geographies (Carcanet) £3.25 pb.
Norman Dugdale, Running Repairs (Blackstaff Press) £3.95

Michael Cullup's Reading Geographies is distinguished by one delightful observation: 'Birds quibble with the lean earth/For pickings' ('Desire'), and one line so mind-numbingly inert it takes a considerable effort of will to finish reading it. I include a two-line run up: 'I've come this far to find you/In all this strangeness/Just as you were where we came from before we left.' ('Strange Dawns') Nothing ever seems to go right for Cullup. 'The rubbish bins are filled to overflowing,/The drains blocked' ('Collecting Dust'). His apples are ruined by wasps ('Ruined Apples'). The woman he takes in his arms turns out to be a ghost ('Night Visitor'). What's worse, cruel fantasies invade the calm of what appears to be an habitual boredom ('Exorcism', 'The Bust', 'Fearing to Wait', 'Impenetrably Near', 'Martyrdom'). 'Complaints', he tells us, are what he lives on ('Collecting Dust').

'Under pressure' (the blurb), Cullup writes poems, or rather prospectuses for poems. (Each carries a tear-off slip inviting the reader's subscription - which some, foolishly, will take to imply the existence of a poem. But who will find the time or the wherewithal to send off for it? Which will only confirm, of course, the poet's rather dim view of humanity.) These his publishers advertise as 'truthful statements', the work of a writer neither 'rhetorical . . . nor . . . extravagant' - all of which has a certain accuracy. We choose a style to make what we have to say easier to express. Cullup writes, ...


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