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This review is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

REVELATORY SMUDGING PATRICK MACKIE, Excerpts from the Memoirs of a Fool (Carcanet) £6.95

In the poem 'An Emotion Constitutes a Magical Transformation of the World' Patrick Mackie gives the clearest clue as to what he is up to:

A deepening ensues - like the feeling of watching
the chiaroscuro being added to a portrait of yourself

after you've finished posing. You can do nothing now but witness
the accretion of shades - the plush layering - a revelation by smudging.

The title itself suggests enough of the imaginative and other-worldly playfulness of Wallace Stevens which is in evidence throughout this book, but the forty words of this poem demonstrate something not unlike a kind of doodling, and the technique crops up again and again in this collection. If it is doodling, though, it is doodling elevated to a poetic technique and, as such, it is one of a number of techniques and forms Mackie uses that take the place of the creative-writing-syllabus approach to technique which is often as far as many first collections go.

Firstly, there are his list poems, page-long pieces where each line is a small colour-drawing. In 'The Manifestations', for example, 'It's in the swollen yellowness of some summers,' or 'It sounds like a whole orchestra improvising,' or 'It's a plastic bag floating above a house' have a gentle emotional glimmer. There is a momentum to the way one line follows on to another, reinforced by somewhat arbitrary stanza structure and a wilful grammatical unity which ...


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