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I'm filled with admiration for what you've achieved, and particularly for the hard work and the 'cottage industry' aspect of it.
Fleur Adcock

Review of Cities - John Greening, The Times Literary Supplement, 26th November 2010

The Independent

'Poets in perpeptual motion' by Michael Horovitz


The opening sequence of Elaine Feinstein's new volume , "Migrations", compares the transglobal movements of our feathered friends "using the stars, along/ flyways old as Homer and Jeremiah", and those of humans, including all her grandparents who "came from Odessa/ a century ago". What follows is a zigzagging parade of autobiographical reminiscences and fast-forwards from the poet's childhood and teens in wartime Leicester through student and teaching years in Cambridge, and more than 50 years of wide-ranging travels, as well as vacations with her children, her late husband, and other loved ones.

Here and there the linking thread - with each poem lodged in one city or another - seems tenuous. Occasionally the words, though unexceptionable as cultural information, read more like a versified holiday postcard than born of inner necessity or delivered with the organic specificity that distinguishes Feinstein's vastly accomplished lyrical oeuvre over the decades. "At the Chelsea" could have been a commissioned advertising blurb for the famous downtown headquarters of New York City's bohemia. "The walls are three foot thick, we are assured,/ so you won't be disturbed/by loud music. Or screams."

Equally unprecedented are en passant generalisations, perhaps also prompted by this book's travelogue-like premise. One reads in "Budapest": "Before the Soviet grip began to slacken/ – most conquerors go, eventually, even the Turks". For many generations of North American Indians, black and Asian slaves and their descendants worldwide, and – more recently – Palestinians in and around Israel, among others, that "eventually" will feel unconscionably flip.

However, pieces containing such uncharacteristic distractions are in a minority here. Feinstein's singular gift for pointed observation and perfect-pitch images illuminates most of these pages – even concerning superficially mundane things like weather variations, as in "Christmas Day in Willesden Green": "On these cold Christmas windows, heavy rain/ begins, like the crackle of crumpled cellophane,/ or an untuned radio". 
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