An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
4b Tremayne Close
UK ISBN 1 905024 01 0

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The usual very nicely produced book from Stride. This is a book of prose poems from 1980 to date from the American poet Campbell McGrath. Each passage extends to one or two pages, with some being a little longer. The subject matter is wide ranging. LANGDON, NORTH DAKATA is about an auction:

The auction began at noon, was almost over when we arrived. Gone already were the canoe, wading pool, camper, motorcycles, lawn furniture, toys, old clothes, and house, the land itself. Through the window I could see a stag's head over the mantel.
The piece ends by a consideration of life:
It is a wind which carries the seeds of life and the dust of extinction. I have dreamt of tinsel and glass balls, of a living room in the heart of the Great Plains. It is a winnowing wind. It is a bitter wind.
Do not look for work which edges towards conclusion, with in-depth allusions and solecisms here. On the other hand, the open-ended nature of these pieces and the considered approach is well-worth exploring. The pace is sustained and haunting, as in BAKER, CALIFORNIA:
In room 106, all is still but the air conditioner. Beyond the window: night, blue palm trees, nothing. On TV: images of flame, multitudes of flame, silent minions and consorts of flame. We move outside to the parking lot and stare into the impervious darkness. Nothing. The ice machine whispers erotic riddles, the edge of something almost cool passes over us in the breeze.
The book is scattered with lovely images and vivid descriptions and I feel that McGrath is at his best in the more poetic of the prose pieces:
	Dusk: bicyclists; cricket chimes; the blue moon;
	a single green planetary orb to grace the withered stalks of the tomato plants
	in the garden.  In the kitchen,
	after removing the oatmeal-raisin cookies to cool, Elizabeth has fallen asleep
	in the flour-dusted afterglow of baking,
	in the sluice of pooled heat spilled like sugared lava from the oven,
	in her clothes, on the floor,
	sitting up.
There is elegant cadence in this tapestry of life and the shorter pieces exemplify the pleasure in linguistics:
The more you allow the figures of black, silent trees glimpsed by night from the window of a train near Fayetteville into your heart, the greater the burden you must carry with you on your journey, and the sooner you will come to question your ability to endure it, and the stronger your conviction to sing.
The above is NORTH CAROLINA from TWO SONGS, and is given complete. The passage is thought-provoking and evocative.

Overall, the book is a pleasure to read. The pieces are well thought out and take you on a journey in all directions.

reviewer: Doreen King.