An independent small press poetry review

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Smith/Doorstep Books The Poetry Business
Bank Street Arts
32-40 Bank Street
S1 2DS
ISBN 978 1 902382 91 3

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At a poetry reading recently, Paddy Bushe cited the simile as rare as a good villanelle and rueful laughter was general among the audience, most of whom had probably encountered the form as homework for their creative writing class. The villanelle leapt back into fashion in the latter half of the twentieth century and seems determined to stay there. Like that other terribly popular form, the sestina, the villanelle is all about repetition with variation; making order of multiplicity. It is easy to forge theories about why such a concern might suit the poets of our age, and plenty of literary critics have done so.

Philip Jason has accused the villanelle of a kind of schizophrenia - a form that pretends certainty and resolution even while it

festers and broods in a closed room
over some obsessive question. Given the assurance and verve with which Andrea Holland employs the devices of repetition and variation throughout her short collection BORROWED, it is interesting, then, that the opening poem should be entitled ON NOT WRITING A VILLANELLE:
	I do not want to make a stone horse
	that is trying to and cannot smell the air,
	said Barbara Hepworth, the woman who disappears in fire.
It and many of the poems in BORROWED is loyal to the spirit of the traditional form even while breaking all its rules. Holland's poems are inspired by paintings, novels, library cards, a jazz band interpreting a Nirvana song: this is a poetry of adaptation. ON HEARING A JAZZ TRIO PLAY SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT BY NIRVANA:
	...The melody's been pushed
	around, an amiable steering as if, left as it was,
	it might come to harm, something might go

	terribly wrong...
And adaptation, as Chris Cooper says in the film of the same name
is a profound process. It means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
Instead of becoming a slave to the mores of art and culture, BORROWED seems to say that art and culture are there to be bent to life's needs.

BORROWED was one of three winners in last year's Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition. Its sixteen poems are wide-ranging, connected by their concern with art, music and literature - and by their curiosity and intelligence. To misquote Philip Jason this time, it could be said that all poetry

festers and broods in a closed room
Perhaps that is even what poetry ought to do. But it must look outwards too, be always open and questing and Andrea Holland's poetry is certainly that.

reviewer: Ailbhe Darcy.