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This review is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

Not Nothing ian seed, Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman Books) £8.95
ian seed, Threadbare Fables (Like This Press) £5

Ian Seed has spent many years living and working in Italy, Poland and France and his writing since his return to the UK seems to bear out John Hartley Williams’ suggestion, in a Bow Wow Shop article, that living for a while in a country that does not speak your language is not writerly suicide, as some fear, but an essential part of a writer’s education, the only way, in fact, to get some of the foreignness of life into one’s life: ‘It’s a way of taking you out of the meaningless trap of […] thinking that you are writing about “what you know” when you can’t possibly know it, and into a place where the reality of what happens is transformed into what it really is: itself, the strange stuff of existence’ (

In the prose poems of his third Shearsman collection, Makers of Empty Dreams, his Like This Press chapbook Threadbare Fables, and the second section of his earlier collection Shifting Registers, Seed appears to have a struck a particularly rich seam of this ‘strange stuff’ and made it distinctly his own.

The ‘I’ in these prose poems is an outsider-style existential anti-hero, who has mysterious encounters, many of them sexual, with strangers. He is often threatened, humiliated or misunderstood by them, and the sex is nearly always an unsatisfactory, or at least an uncertain affair in which desire can get suddenly and amusingly derailed by curiosity and bemusement, as in the opening poem of Threadbare Fables:

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