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This review is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Passionate Distancing thomas a. clark, Yellow & Blue (Carcanet) £9.95

Two primary colours which between them are the basis of two-thirds of the colour on the surface of the earth. As the poet walks this surface from poem to poem they occur occasionally among all the browns and greens (about every 15 to 20 poems), separately or together, in their pure form (a flower, a blob of paint) and when one occurs the other is usually not far away. They attract each other towards a completion, a total: ‘flowering gorse bush / leaning over / towards the sea / as if its growth / were towards completion / of yellow in blue’.

Laurie Clark’s delightful cover picture, of six sharpened pencils, three yellow and three blue, follows me through the book as a reminder of the equivalence of the two colours, and to keep a sharp look-out for them.


Unpunctuated poems, mostly of four to six short lines, mostly two or three to a page. Pages with two poems enact a binary structure, the second responding in some way to the first. Then they don’t. Pages with three poems have an interlude in the middle. Sometimes yes sometimes no.

Each poem indicates a place, perhaps amounting to one place through the whole book, perhaps a new place with each poem, perhaps a place only a few inches away from the previous place, or several miles. Items of vocabulary point to Scotland (skerry, lochan, bolabhal etc.) and to wild countryside – then not wild but not metropolitan either. The place is given in a detail, often but not ...

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