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This review is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

Cover of Faber New Poets
Alison Brackenbury‘You can’t push matter out’
Sam Buchan-Watts, Faber New Poets 15
Crispin Best, Faber New Poets 14
Elaine Beckett,
Faber New Poets 13
Rachel Curzon, Faber New Poets 16
All Faber, £5
I LOVE RADIOS. But I nearly hurled a hefty anthology at mine when I heard a critic speak casually of ‘the noise made by a poem’. Poems, I raged (silently!), have sounds, voices, meanings. ‘Please, somebody stop this noise.’

I borrowed this plea from Sam Buchan-Watts. In his ‘Matters Concerning God’

Now the only matter I can picture
is opaque: the soft pink bellow of sun in your ears.

Is ‘bellow’ a noise or a tool? Buchan-Watts is often cryptic. His meanings spread slowly, like the sun. He is an acute observer of blurred urban light: ‘moth-like’ cars, ‘sodium fuzz’. But his poems’ horizons can open into unexpected lyricism, with highly competent metrics, and long vowels of song:

what stillness happens when the movie shows
what type of wind blows

I could save a confession till the credits roll
never quite manage to sit them out till close

In a prose poem reflecting on moon landings, Buchan-Watts unobtrusively steers to a telling point: ‘the futility of flags and their fluttering’. His prose poems are especially forceful: ‘The mole pays back for the molehill: you can’t push matter out or to the side of a dream in a manner so slipshod […] the fields are bereft of things’. In his poems’ fields, the lives of animals matter. With child-like plainness, the mention of milk leads to ‘small cows who are calves and are known to drink it as well’. Restraint ripens to drama. A boy ‘bangs until ...

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