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This review is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

In the Detail CAROL RUMENS, De Chirico's Threads (Seren) £9.99
LAWRENCE SAIL, Waking Dreams: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) £9.95

Carol Rumens and Lawrence Sail make poetry out of the smallest details. Rumens can focus on the hesitation of fingers before typing on a computer keyboard or the way you used to fumble to dial on an old telephone: 'You counted out heavy pennies, pushed Button A. / Fingered the wheel and let it re-roll / - Three letters, four numbers.' So too can Lawrence Sail suddenly touch on something seemingly so everyday, and elevate it into something beautiful: 'At home you shed your blazer, casting off / The Latin motto they stitched across your heart.' In both De Chirico's Threads and Waking Dreams, it is the small details that matter. And in both, it is the tiniest details of language that stand out.

Rumens's book is divided into three, seemingly separate, parts. With her opening sequence of eight 'Sonnets for Late-Elizabethan Lovers', Rumens takes the sonnet form and playfully subverts it. These are poems written by and for people who have 'learned a thing or two / Since then'; the 'then' of when Bernard de Fontenelle thought he could tell what the inhabitants of the planet Venus were like. Far more world-weary, in these brilliant poems Rumens deploys a witty, slightly cynical voice. A poem which describes an erotic dream of an employer begins with a scene in Costsaver and crosses over through Human Resources. In another, 'LOVE POEMS' is put into Google's search engine, modern technology intervening, while in a third Rumens ruefully considers herself ...


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