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

In Rowanberry Weather anne stevenson, Astonishment (Bloodaxe Books) £8.95

It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out from her date of birth (1933) that Anne Stevenson has reached a significant age. And yet no one can consign her to the role of ageing poet. The poetry in Astonishment is young, extraordinarily varied, energised and demanding. It requires the reader’s full attention – nothing less – and the rewards are commensurate.
    
She is, as she has ever been, a poet of tireless interrogation. Her meditations on age and ageing are penetrating and offer no solace whatsoever. In the wry, almost comedic piece ‘An Exchange in the Time Bank’, she places her life ‘gently on the counter’ and asks ‘for change’. It’s a rich poem, and richly demanding. What will her life be worth in terms of ‘retrievable memories’ (the currency of poetry, no less)? She regards her ‘old life sadly’ as it sits waiting to be valued. The life is ‘old’ because its owner is old – but wait, it’s also the ‘old life’ viewed by someone proceeding with the new. Something is about to change. And then she hesitates:

‘OK, I’ll take it back!’ He shook his head.
    ‘My dear, it isn’t there.’
I reached, but clung to something that disintegrated,
    smoke in a puff of air,
a dream’s liquidity, a failed currency,
    a mintage, surely a rarity,
valued, trusted, hoped for, ever believed in—
   volatile as money.

This is playful and ...


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