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This review is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

The Paradox of Fulfilled Expectations geoffrey brock, Voices Bright Flags (Waywiser Press) £8.99
alfred corn, Unions (Barrow Street Press) $16.95
adrian may, Comedy of Masculinity: Songs and Poems (Wivenbooks) £12
marianne morris, The On All Said Things Moratorium (Enitharmon) £9.99

After winning the New Criterion prize for his first collection, Weighing Light, Geoffrey Brock won the Anthony Hecht prize with his second, Voices Bright Flags. This pedigree gives one some idea of what to expect – traditional metrics; engagement with politics and history, especially American – and Brock doesn’t disappoint in these areas. The collection is organised in sequences: ‘Staring Back at Us’, poems on or spoken by figures from American history; ‘Concordances’, about the poet’s immediate or tangential relation to moments of American history; ‘Second Skins’, which includes several dramatic monologues spoken by historical personages; ‘Homeland Security’; ‘American Ornithology’; and ‘Headlands’. Brock knows his compulsive revisiting of episodes in his country’s past is part of a wider response to historical trauma, also evidenced in battle re-enactments, which he in turn reflects:

                                      Bull Run again
six months ago: hundred-degree heat,
each soldier in period wool, with a replica gun
(cheating, perhaps, with ice beneath his hat) –
and this: two sets (just one, through the theurgy
of time, can see the other) of spectators!
As Freud said: first the trauma, then the urge
to rhyme it. Or Marx: first tragedy, then farce.
                                  (‘William Howard Russell at Bull Run: July 21, 1861’)

But underlying this compulsion is a desire to lay the past to rest. In ‘Shades of Tucson’, the poet watches his black neighbour do chores for a Hispanic widow whose husband tried to keep blacks out of the neighbourhood:

God ought ...


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