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This review is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

THE WORLD CLOSED OFF SIMON SMITH, London Bridge (Salt Publishing) £9.99

A simultaneously accessible and avant-garde poetry is not as rare a thing as it once was, but London Bridge's negotiation between the everyday and the desire to change it marks it out as something much more than a domesticated modernism. As Smith's collections accumulate (this is now his fourth), one feels something significant emerging.

London Bridge heralds that most precious of things: a style. Smith has his models, of course - Paul Blackburn and John Ashbery are, one fancies, his main heroes - but the mixing of a wry, casual cheeriness with understated authorial bewilderment is now a distinctive signature. We witness it in 'Stereogram':

Was that the bit swung up sharply
To repeat, adept, surely as needle
Trips vinyl, genuine reproductions
Cars, bikes, buses, taxis trucks
Emergency services' flaming sirens
Part mix, part shout, part part,
Part dub, part bass, part horn,
Part chorus, part whisper,
Part honk, part loop, part
Solo, part squeal, part
Found, part lost

Smith's casualness is only apparent. His poems are more accurately fast - or, rather, the world they intermediate in is. The achievement of the poems is to hang on to this world while remaining faithful to the fact that, in the twenty-first century, this is not easy. Smith, in a sense, has it both ways, reflecting the fragmentation of experience but also often enough able to grab it, celebrate it, mourn it ...


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