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This review is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

‘Loosed and Lost in Tongues’ Anthony Barnett, Poems & (Tears in the Fence in association with Allardyce Book ABP) £48
Anthony Barnett, Translations (Tears in the Fence in association with Allardyce Book ABP) £36

I am reminded by many of Anthony Barnett's poems of the drawings of Paul Klee: fine but strong lines that set out from some arbitrary point and sharply change direction, lively hatchings, the creation from the improvisatory journeying of the hand (a journeying that the viewer's body senses and repeats) of delicate, enigmatic structures that are at once sturdy and yet not quite stable, and that seem to possess an infectious surprise at their own emergence from the fertile nothingness of the white paper. For a certain kind of poet, too, 'A blank sheet is full of paths', as Edmond Jabès, a writer who has meant much to Barnett, wrote in The Book of Questions.

SLEEP

I dream, have not dreamt.

Cradled in
Hollowness.

You catch remoteness.

Immediately, there is a situation that, as in Klee's drawings, is not so much described as present, as there. To adapt Maurice Blanchot, this writing 'is not the account of an event, but the event itself, its imminence...'. But because much remains hidden – there seems to be a vast hinterland behind the immediacy of the words – the situation teases the mind. Is the speaker actually asleep, or lying awake and 'dreaming' wakefully? What does he (for it seems to be 'he') mean by saying 'have not dreamt' (I think of Wyatt's 'It was no dream: I lay broad waking...' as well as of Donne's 'The Good Morrow': ...


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