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Nick Burbridge’s poetry is no stranger to Orbis readers and his third collection is full of the wit, verve and character we’ve come to expect from his work. He writes in various media, and the influence of drama and music is particularly evident here; the poems are full of extraordinary characters living it large in a bohemian way. ‘Dance No.6 PT.2’ is a good illustration of his method:

  When Dick’s drunk at dinner with our friends
  the set designer and his potting partner
  he takes off down the road to the local diva’s house
  (while reviews hail him as a modern dance master)
  and stands in the gutter, shouting:
  ‘You tosspot, you poser,
  come out here, I loathe you!’
  And when no one appears to challenge him
  goes back to the table, satisfied, victorious.

But there is more to Dick, who sculpts, than meets the eye, and more to Burbridge’s portrait; it offers him the opportunity for incisive self-deprecation: ‘Like Dick, I mess with forms, /obscurely. We are both blunted.’ And despite titles such as ‘Actress’, ‘Mandolin Man’ and ‘Festival’, there is also more to his poetry than a troubadour-style wandering through Bohemia, though it is never less than entertaining; his meditations on family blister with precise analysis of the ties that both bind and strangle us. ‘Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral’ considers the mortality of a brother and father, observing that ‘the love of son and father renews always/ in potential, like the love of brothers.’ In ‘The Proud Uncle’, a man’s grief for a still-born child is brought into sharp relief by the new arrival of his niece:

  When he holds the child
  he appears to dissolve
  as if suspended
  in a spiritualist’s shot.

Burbridge is a versatile artist, and one gets the full spectrum of moods, of light and shades, in this skilful collection.

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