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Posted July 5, 2006
There are some interesting facts to keep in mind about this book, before you decide whether to read it or not. These can be found in the biographical notes at the back of the book. FACT ONE: Of the fifty-seven poets featured in this book, seventeen are women. FACT TWO: All fifty-seven poets are University graduates FACT THREE: Fifty of those went on to become University lecturerers FACT FOUR: The majority of poets here either attended elitist Universities such as Oxford or Cambridge, or lecture there. Now, as if those facts didn't more than speak for themselves, I shall outline a few of the features of most of the poets here. Firstly let me point out that the main feature of this book is metaphors, indeed this entire anthology is crammed with them. Rather than describe sexual relations, the poets here will use any old analogy to compare it to, presumably in an attempt to appear 'challenging'. One of the first examples of this can be found in the poem 'Monkeys' by Selima Hill. This poem is a platform for Selima Hill to write dull and generally stupid observations about her sexuality, a cliched topic for women to approach at the best of times. Men don't have to rely on their sexuality to further their career, so why should women? You can almost hear her implying that sex is a woman's only purpose in life. Such insulting cliche infuriates and saddens me. Using metaphors for the male and female form, she basically describes sexual relations between a man and a woman - HOW ORIGINAL!! I for one don't care about Selima Hill's private life. She has nothing insightful to convey. You will also notice frequent repitition in this book, for instance: 'The Hook' by Duncan Bush mentions a sickle, as does 'Thoughts for the Holiday Inn' by Tony Curtis, only seven pages later. This is irritating, and it also proves that publishers such as Bloodaxe have a clear agenda, which they set, and then execute, to the exclusion of all poets who don't give them exactly what they want. 'Thoughts for the Holiday Inn' is also extremely long, in the tradition of Robert Burns' 'Tam O' Shanter', except not as interesting. 'That Old Time Religion' by Peter Didsbury reeks of pretension, but lacks any ability to engage the reader with anything interesting. Liz Lochead, like so many of her female contemporaries, shows a complete disregard for anything but female sexuality, throwing hers around ostentatiously and unnecessarily. Again, men don't rely on it, why should women? In 'Song Of Solomon', she describes the sexual act in terms of smell, which is uniquely vile and repugnant. It is almost like a message to the publisher saying: 'I am sexual, publish me'. Besides which, at the mention of 'curds of cheese' between her toes, I felt sickened, and convinced that perhaps Lochhead should invest in a scrubbing brush. The rest of Lochhead's poetry embraces a local mindset and dialect, a fatal mistake if the poet wants to engage anyone other than their family or friends. 'City Of God' by Michael Donaghy is also worthy of note, for being littered with metaphors, riddles, obscurity, clumsiness AND a lack of rhyme. Of course, a poem does not HAVE to rhyme, but if it has no rhyme, it should have vivid imagery or a strong point to convey. If it has none of these, what's the point? 'City Of God' must surely be indecipherable to all but it's author. 'Catching Crabs' by David Dabydeen boasts the revolting feat of boasting about attending Cambridge, but by this point in the book, I was distinctly unimpressed. Cambridge is a 'money = entry' type of institution, so why should I care if he's been there or not? Why should anyone care? It certainly doesn't make him a better poet, because 'Catching Crabs' contains the same metaphors and double entendres that all of his contemporaries use. Truly, this book is a literary cure for insomnia. Dabydeen also makes use of yet another poetic cliche: local dialect. It is infuriating and irritating, preventing theWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.