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Salmon Poetry
Cliffs of Moher
Co. Clare
ISBN 1 903392 45 4

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Much of the strength of Mr Harmon's focused collection is its ability to affect even without a reader being in possession of that specific scholarship which informs many of the poems, especially the two long beginning narratives, PRELUDE and BROKEN LIGHTS, BROKEN LANCES. It is a collection for our time; telling, as it does, of the inability of man to understand or even empathize with those fellow creatures who are different. THE DOLL WITH TWO BACKS of the title is the Pueblo Indians' Kachina: a back-to-back-doll

condemned to an eternity of physcial union in which neither could ever see or understand the other.
The poet uses the infamous subjugation of the American Indian as his matrix:
	Despite the measuring chain and circumforentor 
	it did not sink beneath their scalps that chiefs
	resented being powwowed down to, spat
	at medals and cocked hats, scorned those 
	who sold guns yet urged them not to kill
	and did not twig the songs warriors sang.


	Like you we have grown out of this land.
	We are one family, brothers on this land.

	The Great Spirit has made us both strong
	not to hurt one another, but to assist.
	No wrong will ever be done to you by the white man.
In the second of the two long poems, BROKEN LIGHTS, BROKEN LANCES, this dichotomy is particularized in the narrator's passionate friendship with an Indian student. It is a moving account of a friendship that fails, despite those essential chemicals that may bond a man and a woman. The poet attempts to persuade her that they are 'linked' by the histories and myths of his Irish and her Indian genesis:
	How could he recover lost threads
	that linked her and hers to him and his
She is not convinced:
	'You talk about analogies
	the beginning of civilisations
	pagan, Christian.  I see
	proximity, not communion.
	The indifferent beak lets her drop.
	That means failure, disappointment,
	betrayal, when a powerful figure
	abandons the weaker'.
His metaphor, of course, is interchangeable. The poetry is unyielding in what it communicates 'broken lights' that will never shine whole.

Part two of this collection contains fifteen mainly short poems. They include insightful lyrics of childhood, love and memory; memory that bemoans an inevitable universal progress from THE NORTH:

	Changed.  Obscured.  Curves,
	groves, hedgerows, habitats
	ripped apart.
	Defiles of dual carriageway,
	chicanes, restraints, controls ...
I am reminded of the accessibility and elegance of the late James Simmons.

reviewer: Michael Bangerter.