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This review is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.

From Refusal to Acceptance sam riviere, 81 Austerities (Faber) £9.99

The extreme austerity of an almost empty mind
Colliding with the lush, Rousseau-like foliage of its desire to communicate
                                                                                                - John Ashbery


The 'austerity' within which this book is situated has two major components: first, a severe and continuing decline in spending power for all but the wealthiest, as increases in income are outstripped by rapid increases in the cost of living. The second is a political project advanced by the British coalition government, as yet in its early stages, simultaneously to address the UK's severe deficit and radically de-socialise Britain by both shrinking and privatising all but a small core of state activity.

81 Austerities does not engage with either of these senses of 'austerity' directly, but develops responses - richly singular yet plural, personal yet depersonalised - to a variety of losses (privacy, sociality, certainty) both consequent on this situation and arising out of much wider cultural changes. With intentional paradox, and a persuasive inconsistency, Riviere addresses the austere in language by working a narrowed resource of form, diction and punctuation, out of which he succeeds in making a poetry of depth and resonance.

Riviere's poetry takes notice of the changes, the shifts in what 'being there' has come to mean as we move towards a hybrid of digital and 'actual' presences. Within the poetry is an awareness that subjectivity is positioned, as it always has been, between the never-was and the never-will-be-again. That the clamorous, insistent, ...


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