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This review is taken from PN Review 196, Volume 37 Number 2, November - December 2010.

AN INCOMPLETE SERVICE Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets, edited by Carrie Etter (Shearsman) £12.95

It’s hard not to have sympathy for the purpose and project of this book. The editor, Carrie Etter, is clearly uneasy with the way poems and poets are made visible at the moment. In her introduction she writes:

This anthology gathers poetries not readily found in the pages of Britain’s broadsheets or larger-circulation literary journals. More implicitly, Infinite Difference makes the case that Britain’s tendency to divide poetry into the categories of ‘Mainstream’ and ‘Experimental’ or ‘Avant Garde’ undermines our sense of the rich array of poetries being written. While this range might place at one end a linear narrative poem and at the other end a fragmented associative one, the land between is rich and various.

There is something eloquent and indignant about this, which does indeed draw sympathy. There may also be, unfortunately, something unrealistic here as well, which translates eventually into the weaknesses of this book. Anthologies are restrictive. The canonical choices of any one era, whether made through publishing or the academy, can often be clumsy and unsound. And the point is well taken that both anthologies and canon-making represent selection processes which need to be vigorously challenged. Especially in the case of the woman poet who is also an experimental poet, when there can be a double invisibility, a second helping of struggle.
The problem in this book lies not so much with the challenge – the entire spirit of the book and its editor ...

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