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

AT HOME Chris Preddle, Cattle Console Him (The Waywiser Press) £8.99

Passers-by can see Chris Preddle and his wife Jacqueline through their 'uncurtained kitchen windows'. Immersing oneself in Preddle's poems is like looking through those windows into his life in Holme in rural Yorkshire, and into the intricate quicksilver thought processes he expresses through a variety of cultural references from myth, poetry, art and music. His language and verse forms are inventive, filled with chiming homophones, puns, rhymes, and orthographical experiment, from the Joycian 'Polyphilophloisboisterous', to the incantatory 'quorum quarum / home holme us' and onomatopoeic 'smurry smoory smeary rain'.

Preddle mines a seam of seldom used words ('mavrone', 'culm', 'herm', 'oxter') for their precise meanings, sounds and associations, and presses fresh meaning into newly coined words. In his lines describing Oscar Wilde 'declined' on a sofa 'in an oscarybosky gloom, / a chiaroscaroscuro carpet-moth', Preddle's playfully inserted 'oscary' suggests Wilde's decadent self-display, while 'declined' adds a suggestion of wilting decay. Preddle's striking similes recall Metaphysical techniques: a woman's 'pleated skirt in a half circle like a protractor' as she rides side-saddle, for example. He sees walnut kernels as 'brains / from the six-inch manikins that walked all over Gulliver'.

The classical world of Greek myth, philosophy and poetry coexists with Preddle's domestic life in Holme, his 'Jacqueline mavourneen' and cosily named friends Mary and Ken, Jean and Bill. Holme is 'our Valley of the Kings'; 'that small Parnassus' where the 'black sea' of Ramesden Reservoir recalls the death of Cleisthenes on the Black Sea; and ...


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