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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

PIKES IN THE GRASS HUGH MCMILLAN, Aphrodite's Anorak (Peterloo) £6.95
KERRY HARDIE, A Furious Place (The Gallery Press) £5.95
PAULINE STAINER, The Wound-Dresser'sDream (Bloodaxe) £6.95
CIARAN CARSON, Opera Et Cetera (Bloodaxe) £7.95

The jokey picture on the cover of Aphrodite's Anorak ('Robert Burns… looks back at Highland Mary') gives us some idea of the fun in Hugh McMillan's work, yet the fun tends to be muted under his plainly observatory mode, and there is a disconcerting prosaic flatness in places. Sometimes his lines can catch us off guard:
 

Lorrayne
before you hit me with that object
shaped like a toblerone
let me explain.


but more often, they are lukewarm, and provoke a likewise response. As McMillan can quote in Latin and knows some awfully difficult words: 'selentropy' and 'syssarcosis' for instance, the ordinariness of many of these poems could seem assumed. But the poet can rise to the occasion; some deceptively clever images show us what he can do, and 'Nibelgard Girl', a strange meditation from a mythic female, stands out oddly like a mystery object in a social history museum. As a writer with an eye for the quirky, characters should be his forte -yet I felt that an ability to position his lines with accuracy is carrying the weight of his intelligence.

Kerry Hardie is another poet with a narrative interest, but her images are devised with greater strength, making the reader realise why they have been written:
 

The pike is in the meadow by the
  river
He makes furious rushes. You can
  see his path gouged ...


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