An independent small press poetry review

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Dealing first with some minor detracting points in the format of this attractive perfect-bound volume of 90 poems, there are nine blank pages at the end, unevenness of a system of capitalisation of first letters of titles, and no listing in the Contents page of the group names of sections of poems which occur in the main text. None of these affect the poetry, but could have been adjusted by the publisher, although maybe excessive blank pages are not a modern failing. Fashions and formats change.

We can now see the range and skills in this first full collection since Ashbee's debut with Enitharmon Press. He says that

all of these poems were initially written to be read in isolation without reference to each other ... [and that] ... in grouping them here into a sectioned sequence, it is hoped that extra resonance will result.
This is probably right but the publisher for some reason seems not to honour this statement, omitting such a sectioned sequence on the CONTENTS page as mentioned.

Most of the poems are directly or indirectly concerned with loss, many as incidents which come naturally with time's passage. Practical, with few concessions to fantasy, they are solid, interesting and with ideas put together and presented in good running order with metrical stress and few end-rhymes. It is all competent stuff and difficult to pick winners from winners. One might expect the odd whacks of communication media which are both the blessing and bane of modern living to penetrate here, replacing the loss of the more human of life's little ironies, but apart from the DVD in OLD CINE-CAMERA, the mental relief processes in SYSTEM RESTORE, and technicalities in PAY PER VIEW,there aren't much. If there might be a seeming lack of spontaneous emotion or love without mental trappings, it has no place here in any depth.

In this excellent collection there is no room to review the varied ideas and skills of the poet. His two perspicacious poems on Ivor Gurney may lead new generations back to the Carcanet collection, instead of assuming that Brooke, Graves, Owen and Sassoon said it all about World War 1.

Maybe the appreciative SYSTEM RESTORE, as above, will strike a chord with other users of this useful feature, and in the simple but laconic ELEVENTH OF NOVEMBER some feeling arises, even partly dismissive, via plant analogy, for that long-remembered day of the year.

	. . . the scarlet geraniums 
	are safe from the frost.

	They stand to attention
	in their winter pots,
	their medals glowing
	in the afternoon light.

	Across the rooftops,
	along the ragged hedges,
	the sound of a bugle
	echoes from the town.
Ashbee is a poet of myriad mental muscles, and the power in the direction of their thrusts is usually a delightful surprise.

reviewer: Eric Ratcliffe.