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This review is taken from PN Review 232, Volume 43 Number 2, November - December 2016.

Cover of Camera Obscura
Kevin J. GardnerA Message Here
Seán Street, Camera Obscura
Rockingham Press, 2016
Recently retired as emeritus professor of radio at Bournemouth University, Seán Street has deftly woven the antithetical arts of poetry and radio broadcasting into a cohesive career. His publications include the original poetry collection Radio and Other Poems, the edited collection Radio Waves: Celebrating the Wireless, and some six prose works on the history and aesthetics of radio, including The Poetry of Radio and The Memory of Sound. His longstanding interest in how sound triggers memory is evident in Camera Obscura, his ninth poetry collection. An emerging pattern is the capacity for communication across time, witnessed most remarkably in his long central poem, ‘The Calderstones’, in which the speaker, for whom the titular stones are an enigma of prehistory, dialogues with a Neolithic figure who finds profound spiritual meaning in them.

               Our buried dead
tease bewilderment with these shapes,
etch each of us a message here.

Consistent with his interest in radio documentary, dramatic monologue proves a fertile form: Street’s subjects include a medieval cathedral mason who witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta, Robert Schumann in the throes of compositional inspiration, the last surviving Beothuk native of Newfoundland, Coleridge’s physician interrupting the composition of ‘Kubla Khan’, the ‘bird-man’ Léo Valentin plummeting to his death, and even the last wild Tarpan mare of Ukraine, in similar plummet.

Camera Obscura rings with music and sound. Unsurprisingly, Street often thinks in metaphors of recording and broadcasting technologies: short wave, radar, shellac, reel-to-reel, and live wireless broadcast find the ...

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