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

LITTER & DETAIL Sean O'Brien, The Indoor Park (Bloodaxe Books) £3.50 pb.
John Latham, Unpacking Mr Jones (Peterloo Poets) £3.00 pb.
Duncan Bush, Aquarium (Poetry Wales Press) £2.95 pb.
Julian Ennis, At the Frontier (Peterloo Poets) £3.00 pb.
Sheenagh Pugh, Earth Studies and Other Voyages (Poetry Wales Press) £2.50 pb.
Ruth Bidgood, Lighting Candles (Poetry Wales Press) £3.50 pb.

'I am in love with detail,' begins the second poem in Sean O'Brien's The Indoor Park. It continues:


             Chestnut trees
Are fire-damaged candelabra.
Waterbirds are porcelain.
The planthouse is the room within the room
And all this is England,
Just left here, and what's to be done?


A pertinent question; and one answer is to write, in this case poetry attesting the decay of the past into the general pointlessness of contemporary life. We inhabit a 'funeral' world and the dead are 'the ghosts of us', which makes 'us' greyer and more impalpable still. The Hollow Men have come to town; 'brute sniggerers', 'dud couples', those who 'hire out their lives', 'a salesman reading Penthouse in his car'. No doubt, living at the end of a long, late century on this played-out little island, we most of us recognize Sean O'Brien's landscape and the lonely faces in his crowd, realizing that there is something distinctive and even fine in the way he contrives to thrust despair so unaggressively to the fore.

What now becomes of that striking declaration of love? Why not simply 'I have to notice detail'? For the 'monstre delicat' of Baudelairian ennui, dreaming of butchery while he puffs on his hookah, has become here a park-promenader living with passive acceptance of trash and failure; fragments and ruins gone to the litterbin alike.

All the same, it takes quite a ...


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