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This review is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Moving On tom paulin, Love's Bonfire (Faber) £12.99

Tom Paulin's ninth collection defiantly revisits the subject-matter, the locations and idioms of his previous work. The uprooted magnolia from 'Floragrande' - 'green waxy magnificent' - recalls the banyan tree of 'Across the Howrah Bridge' in Walking A Line; 'here I am stepping into the same poem twice', he wryly remarks, returning in 'Marked Already' to John Melly's breezeblock bothie, the focus of one of that collection's finest lyrics, 'The Lonely Tower'. In one of two tender love poems, 'Kissing Mrs Khosa', the lovers' first touch is 'like broken like chittering light / - yes a wee wind dog', recalling the title of Paulin's seventh volume.

Love's Bonfire therefore supplements his inimitably jangling, allusive, improvisatory style with a rich network of self-echoes. We hear a displaced voice trying to return home, to what is familiar, but never quite getting there. For this is poetry about how identity comes to be inscribed in the individual voice; about how that identity can be taken away - Paulin's versions of poems by the Palestinian poet Walid Khazendar are arguably the highlight of this book - and also how it can become a kind of straitjacket. 'I could hear you trapped in your own voice', says the speaker of one of the Khazendar lyrics; in 'A Noticed Thing', Paulin once again describes a windsock like no one else:

I happen on it this hot humid Friday
like the way you find a symbol in a poem or ...


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