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This review is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

REINVENTING THE FATHER TOON TELLEGEN, Raptors, translated by Judith Wilkinson (Carcanet) £12.95
A household name in his native Holland, Toon Tellegen has been a prolific writer since the 1960s, producing twenty collections of poetry, numerous volumes of children's stories, plays and novels. His work, for which he has received several national awards, has been translated into several languages. Tellegen's poetic style can best be described as one of metaphysical and psychological enquiry underscored by a sophisticated sense of the endless fluidity and instability of relationships. Comparisons have been drawn with the work of the Russian satirist Mikhail Bulgakov, and certainly Tellegen's poetry displays a comparable range of insight, as well as sharing a commitment to basic human qualities of warmth and good humour, all held together by a moving sense of the tragi-comic.Raptors was originally published (as Raafvogels) in 2006. In 2009, Tellegen read the collection in its entirety to a packed house at the Perdu Theatre, Amsterdam.

Raptors comprises a sequence of ninety-seven poems distributed evenly over three sections. Each poem save the last begins with the words 'My father...' and is characterised, in the first instance, by the use of striking imagery and bold imaginative leaps. Tellegen's approach to storytelling borrows from the narrative techniques of fable, parable and fairytale. By these means he achieves moments of real psychological insight, building from one poem to the next to produce a collection that is novelistic in scope and range. Either one of these two aspects, so deftly handled by the poet, would be commendable on its own. It is the ...


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