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

Life; Still david kinloch, Finger of a Frenchman (Carcanet) £8.96

There are plenty of people who, after taking a glance at this book, might hop half a mile in the opposite direction. Both lyric and critical - Peebo! Peebo! Advanced intellection, linguistic jeux d'esprit - Peebo! If so, they would miss plenty: this being a work that mixes its pleasures with provocation, takes risks to open up new territory and, not without irony, scattering its clues far and wide, offers fine poems and rich sauces, served separately.

Having said that, it's also a book with a clear agenda. Especially if we believe the back cover, which says: 'Finger of a Frenchman explores looking, and writing about looking: at surfaces and beyond them ... at how a transient chemistry of light may be fixed in colour or words'. Well, fixed and, as we discover, not quite fixed. Finger of a Frenchman is taken up to a large extent with poetic (and rhetorical) descriptions of visual art and the matter of representation. It is in fact ekphrastic (Peebo!) - touching on a puzzle (going back to Socrates and Phaedrus at the very least) of how things that seem integrated, alive as word and image, resist enquiry, slip and scatter the further we are drawn in to what it is they say or show.

At the heart of this collection, too, we have a number of related dilemmas: things contrary, not achieving resolution, tending to pull apart. The lyrical vision, in its perfectly achieved particulars, may drift off ...


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