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6/1 Jamaica Mews

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A slender selection of poems, some quite short and/or free-standing and others, in three cases, forming sequences on particular themes. In FILM CLIP LITHUANIA 1942 Walter Perrie explores old flickering film-clips of war scenes, in particular the incongruous juxtaposition of their horrific nature and the response elicited in us with the deadening realisation that, through the passage of so much intervening time, the soldiers are all dead anyway:

	          another line of long-since dead
	shuffles into frame for its turn to be shot.
The two themes of the poem, the politics of the killing, and the distanced reaction of the present to such scenes, are linked in the bitter conclusion on the human indifference that permits such atrocities:
		every cinematic death
	looks much the same.
Perrie's work is quite intense stuff, whether describing a crazed oldish man in ADAM, or a tree-trunk freakishly acquiring the shape of Christ's head in HEAD OF CHRIST BUDAPEST, or evoking the desolation and pillage of long-past conflict in BURNING DUNNING, JANUARY 1716. Here is a sample from ADAM:
	Stands in the graveyard hour on hour
	not minding east wind or the rain.
	Past fifty and his teeth half-gone
	his boy's heart sorrows to seizure.
A long and ambitious sequence of poems, EPILOGUE FOR A NEW AGE, explores the theme of the First World War, memory and the demise of living history through the passage of time and the subsequent total annihilation of its victims and any memory of them. The poet records his own memories of his grandmother and through her, going back further, her memories of her brother subsequently killed in France, and his gift to her of a lock of his yellow hair:
	What else will endure?
	No-one living remembers his laugh.
He enumerates the horrors of that time, and in particular the tragedy of the young men cut down before they could savour life:
	those never old enough to
	quarrel and twist through
	the trenches of time.
The sequence ends with a description, as the poet leans on Bridgend parapet, of the sudden appearance of a multitude of bats and their just as sudden disappearance. He sees them as nightly messengers who flit between the living and the dead, the real and dream-like, who
		roost and fly from
	shelter, like names in memorial stone
The inherent pessimism of Perrie's work and message is shown in another sequence, entitled DESERT NOTES, where at an oasis
	unsuspecting travellers wait out dry days
	and drier nights, weary with dicing and gossip
	waiting for the sky to break and how to hope
	while far below the caravanserai

	answering to moonless tides
	great silent seas in darkness ebb
	and wait for us to die.
The image of the desert is used to express the futile sameness of life and its choices:
	You think from here you can go in any direction
	and arrive somewhere different. Different from where?
	It is not true. From here every direction, every Where
	is the same.
The desolation of the desert is an image of man's sorry present state, but any glib belief in a fall from grace is itself dismissed in the poet's nihilistic vision of any purpose, good or origin man might think he had:
	Because I and Adam are a singular man
	because all women are Eve, we remember
	that, fleeing Paradise, we followed a river
	down, down through mountain, hill, savannah, plain
	until it steamed and vanished in this dried-up pan.

	Hopeless now to try to follow that river
	back to its source, a hole into Nothing.
In another sequence, OVERWHELMED, there are a number of poems dealing with sexual desire and activity, as in YOUNG MAN IN A BAR:
	In a moment he sits up, pulling the hat
	off, smiles at his companion, shaking out
	glossy, shoulder-length black hair, his profile 
	not that I think to have him, but  quite beautiful;
	a Hellenistic cameo in pale
	carved ivory.
This is a selection of unashamedly and unremittingly intense and uncompromising poems well worth perusing.

Reviewer: Alan Hardy.