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THE SURPRISING SUMMER, by Jocelynne Precious is one of the small, stapled chapbooks in the Stray Poets Series. It consists of eight pages with cover artwork of a painting by R. Bevan — 1800s, taken from an old painting catalogue.

As the title suggests, the poems are about one season in the poet's life. The booklet begins with the start of war:

	in Beirut and Lebanon
	there is panic
	warships are sent
	for the people are white
	the Prime Minister
	(& all his pals)
	start their summer holy days
	for ten whole weeks
and the last poem ends with the words
	and the war has gone away
	for the time being
An unusual observation. The booklet is about the clarity, or otherwise, of encapsulating the season in the form of poems.

As such there is a variety of subject matter and tone, ranging from the vernacular of the opening poem:

	where has summer gone
	you were here a moment ago
	have you somewhere else to go
to the
	howling gales
	and steel rods of rain
of the last page. The poems embrace such themes as historical events, nature, friends, and conversation. There is little incident or anecdote in the poems, instead Precious offers her perceptions of the changing season, so that we are invited to see the familiar in a distinctly new light, as in the poem on page two:
	she totters in
	wheeling and dealing

	in vice and sin
	brings her deadly scarlet smile
	and camera grin
As well as being a striking image, the trope, like déjà vu, changes the way we view the intimacy of the scene.

Precious uses nature as a vehicle to enter metaphors that examine a more emotional, inner view of the world. There are recurring images of leaves, birds, flowers, the sun and fields; yet beneath the surface is the deeper worry of impending war that implies the reader as witness.

The privacy of experience is thrown open and becomes public property through language. On page 6 we learn it is "September already" and the "children's children" are screeching down the phone driving the poet to distraction. Female experience is dealt with in a manner whereby the minutiae of the image are opened out to a more universal and satisfying understanding.

In the poem on page seven about morning, the allusion to climate and landscape, or something more inwardly focussed, gives the poem a peculiar gravity:

	all misty
	and mysterious green
	and birds and the cows all still asleep
	till finally
	it slinks below the hill
	and the tips of the trees
	catch fire becoming ochre
	with the first sign of autumn
There is much to admire in this brief booklet; the poems are lyrical, confident and varied. Precious' controlled use of language and tone give the collection a fresh and moving perspective on a familiar theme and leaves a lasting impression.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.