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This review is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

Life Sentences tony lopez, Only More So (Shearsman Press) £12.95

Only More So, Tony Lopez's poem for the twenty-first century, is both terrifying and hilarious, where the hilarity serves its purpose of emphasising the sense of terror that haunts the threading repetitions of reference to torture and evolution: human beings do not seem to learn anything of very much importance and the rest of time will be the same, 'only more so'.

From the earliest pages of this dense text we are presented with a language which plays with the idea of sanitising the dreadful. In the first section, 'The Hawthorne Effect', we are told that 'Stress-induced memory boost is a mechanism evolved for survival' before going on to read that 'Today the House of Lords ruled that evidence gained by torture, from wherever it comes, is not admissible in British courts'. That first statement uses the word 'boost', often associated with a surge upwards of the spirits and a regaining of confidence, to counteract the negative shadow that lies behind 'stress', and by including the word 'mechanism' a distance can be created between the torturer and his victim. The second statement places a clear legal distance between what is acceptable within a British court and what might be deemed acceptable in other parts of the world. This is writing that recalls the world of secrecy surrounding the alleged rendition of detainees to Libya while Jack Straw was Foreign Secretary.

The juxtaposition of statements in this writing allows for sharp satirical reference. In the second ...


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