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This review is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

When Sundials Worked beatrice garland, The Invention of Fireworks (Templar Poetry) £8.99

Beatrice Garland’s well-made poems often progress by way of a tangential logic or an arresting conceit. Love is seen as a vineyard, which in turn is presented as calligraphy, the poet learning from the vines ‘it is our names they are rehearsing, / written in green against the sky’. In ‘The delivery’ sleep comes by truck to an insomniac who ‘must be the last stop on its round’, yet its imminence is greeted nervously, the speaker ‘not wanting this sleep to be the last’. ‘Just me and my cat’ reworks Hughes’s obsession with the synchronicity of animal thought and action, concluding ‘My hearing is muffled by waiting. / My seeing by thinking. I have learned / to be human, walk upright. Use words’. Altogether less hawkish and assertive, it’s that quieter locution ‘muffled’ that distances Garland from Hughes. ‘Fish oil, exercise and no wild parties’ takes the form of advice offered to the ‘fish in a bucket’ a lover has become so that he may enjoy what’s left of life before ‘the hook’s savage grab / lands us both on the slab’. ‘Primer’ records learning about a new lover: ‘At first, loose bits of alphabet / – an S reclining by an X – / lie randomly about the bed’, bits that will ultimately ‘find fluency’ in this ‘new tongue’.

If a carefully forged clarity is one of the features of Garland’s poems, they nevertheless require close attention. ‘A private life’ reveals much about her technique. It is a futurable-poem in which a woman muses on the attractions of disappearing from her own life, ...


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