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Lighter - Frances Leviston

Review by Mario Petrucci

This little red Zippo of a pamphlet steams with book-sized creativity. Poetry in debut can bulge with a lifetime-so-far pressure; 'Lighter' has that kind of range and intensity. Scene by scene, Leviston alternates between a limpid (though never merely transparent) lyricism whose emotion is beautifully co-luminous with its language, and an instinctual thrust where meanings reside as much in modes of expression and sleight of association as in the constituent phrases or narrative. Isn't such fusion of thought and feeling reminiscent of the Metaphysical Poets? For starters, there's her quiet, sparky logic; the delight in direct address. The vivid imagery, too, where stands of iris become "blue docklands" and "a squirrel pulls a nut/ like a tooth from the clay". Heartfelt brain-work, throughout; with that same Elizabethan resistance to paraphrase or extract.

So, read 'Lighter' whole. Be patient. True, it has obscurities into which you must peer, steadily, until the eyes adjust (the preface illuminates, in inviting us 'to be her accompanist'). Understanding can sometimes be - as Johnson said of the Metaphysical Poets - 'dearly bought'. Well worth it, friend, at £2.50. And if the ISBN seems familiar (!) it's because mews press also secured a Pamphlet Choice last year. (This praise is matched only by our regret that the unique Anglo-Hungarian collaboration Converging Lines can't win something too.) Eagerly, then, we await the direction(s) Leviston might take in response to her own query: 'What else is it/ for, my skin, if not this pelting, streaming world?'


copyright mario petrucci 2001