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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Shifting the Centre nikolai duffy, Relative Strangeness: Reading Rosmarie Waldrop (Shearsman Books) £12.95

It is rare to read a book which is as thoroughly researched and yet as engagingly written as this. I gulped down its 183 pages, footnotes and all, in just two sittings. This is an academic book, and yet it is also the story of a voyage of discovery on the part of its author Nikolai Duffy. I suspect that it has been a book several years in the making. As well as serving as a much-needed introduction to the poetry, prose and translations of Rosmarie Waldop, it is an illuminating exploration of some of the fundamental questions thrown up by poetry and its relationship to the world we live in. These are questions that anyone who is interested in poetry of the last hundred years or so is bound to ask, for example the relationship of poetry to politics after Auschwitz. What role, for example, does the avant-garde have here? Duffy does not offer any clear-cut answers. His book is just as much a delving into the unknown 'space of between' as Waldrop's poetry is. Without putting Waldrop's oeuvre into any kind of box, he investigates the historical, biographical and cultural influences that have shaped not only Waldrop's writing, but also her work as founding editor of Burning Deck Press (with husband Keith Waldrop).

We are introduced to her poetry as if it were an unnamed land that Duffy feels compelled to explore but that he has no intention of colonising. Duffy will seek in different ways to map this land, but it ...

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