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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (220 pages)
(Pub. Oct 1997)
I was born tongue-tied. Ages later
Here comes once more the suffocator
That I cannot recall but must
Have been what paralysed me most
Of all the things I could not do.
My speech is back in prison now.
Whatever silenced me when young
Has put a thimble on my tongue.
In her first book since Friend of Heraclitus (1993, Poetry Book Society Choice) Patricia Beer confronts some harsh realities: serious illness, the deaths of friends, the encroachments of age. She remembers family with a surreal clarity (`Ballad of the Underpass' is in equal degrees terrifying and affirmative). She reads characters from Shakespeare into life. And other poets, too: Wilfred Owen writes to his `Dearest of Mothers' full of optimism which the date `1918' ironises. The `Sequence' with which the book concludes evokes her own nearly fatal illness and its consequences, in taut couplets that ache with the necessity of rhyme. Patricia Beer's wry courage is distinctively her own: she does not flinch from hard subjects, does not sentimentalise, but knows how grief works and how clarifying laughter can make things less intolerable.
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