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

When Context is Catalyst pauline stainer, Tiger Facing the Mist (Bloodaxe) £8.95

There are images here of snowflakes and hares and leopards but also of bikers, DNA, ophthalmogy, kiln firing and Rauschenberg paintings. Pauline Stainer's poetry is intensely subjective, and at the same time as impersonal and formulaic as mathematics. Each poem achieves the status of being complete and at the same time having that asymmetry, beloved of the Japanese, that requires the reader to make it whole. Stainer's is an art that is frugal and at the same time generous: each time a poem is contemplated it will yield different insights. The Japanese term shibui (the title of one of the poems) exactly expresses this concept.

This volume is the ninth since her first collection, The Honeycomb, of 1989 - a volume that drew on the work of many years in which recognition was slow to come. Pauline Stainer's way of seeing and writing was well established in that first volume, and it is interesting to see many of the themes and images recurring through her work and re-appearing in new contexts in this latest book. Though she has always been ready to address the pain as well as the wonder of the real world of our times, she has never aligned herself with the well-trumpeted causes of the last thirty years: she has no messages for the feminist or the politician of any stripe. She has travelled widely through the globe and literature, but prefers to explore the universal and unaccountable through the lens of her own searching mind. ...


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