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This review is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.

CURIOUSLY STRONG MARK FORD, Six Children (Faber & Faber) £9.99; Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays (Peter Lang) £50.00

John Ashbery said it first: Mark Ford is 'curiously strong'. 'Curious' is a good adjective to apply to Ford's poetry, as well as to the reception it has engendered. Despite three outstanding collections - Landlocked (1992), Soft Sift (2001) and now Six Children (2011) - Ford has not collected a major prize, or garnered easy plaudits. This is curious: each of his books has outstripped its predecessors in scope and skill. A book a decade, after all, entails distaste for repetition - making Ford an even more unusual part of the current poetic picture.

On 6 May of this year Ford launched three titles: Six Children, Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays and a translation of Raymond Roussel's Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique (Princeton). Working on the latter seems to have 'traumatised' the poet, an experience he recalled on David Lehman's 'The Best American Poetry' blog:

As a neophyte to the translating business, what most amazed me was how much it resembled, emotionally, what I imagined it felt like to be chained to a corpse! Not that I didn't enjoy it, in a peculiar sort of way, but I found the lack of freedom translating entails quite mind-bending ... How different this was from fooling around creating 'versions', as Pound had done with Fenollosa's notes for his Cathay poems, as I'd done myself with bits of Apuleius and Ronsard and Boethius and Tacitus and Lucretius and Pliny. Here you had to get it right.

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