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This review is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

A CIVILIZED POET JACK BEECHING, The Invention of Love (Piccolo Press) £6

Jack Beeching has spent most of the last forty years in Mediterranean countries, with interludes in the Americas. In consequence he has escaped the cliques and coteries that infest the English literary scene, and is as conscious of developments in French and Spanish as in English and American poetry. He speaks with a distinctive voice, independent of passing fashions, personal, very English, yet always within the mainstream of European poetry. A lifelong Socialist, he has lived under right-wing dictatorships in Spain, Greece and Latin America. This experience has left its mark upon his subject matter and his view of life, in such poems as 'The Dictator Dying' and 'The Dictator Dead' (in his earlier collection Twentyfive Short Poems) or 'Flamingoes on Formentera' in which the opening lines ('The year they shot their hungry prisoners/Flamingoes vanished…') look back to the Spanish Civil War.

The juxtaposition of flamingoes and firing squads is typical of Beeching's poetry, in which natural beauty and the ugliness of human society constantly rub shoulders. Prisons are a recurrent image, as in his poignant poem on a blinded linnet in a cage:

In this enormous prison of outer air
Freedom is a passion that all share.
The least of prisoners mimes our

But it is not only human cruelty that makes our society ugly but its waste and destruction of natural resources. He returns to this theme several times, as in the ...

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