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Losing the ability to express yourself must be a poet's greatest fear, so it's unsurprising to find a series of poems which takes this as its prime subject matter. In Sean Body's most recent work, Seasons, language defines identity and its loss makes the strong and self assured feel insecure and adrift.

Editor and Manchester Poets stalwart, Body describes the isolation experienced by stroke victims, migrants and outcasts when illness or foreign surroundings turn them mute. The Irish immigrants in
Bearla find the forced use of the unfamiliar English language inhibits their inner thought processes as well as their communication with the outside world. Thoughts become like 'Stones / small pebbles picked up / on a childhood beach / we finger in the dark. / They weigh heavy now...' In Muirea' even the immigrants' Celtic names are taken away and replaced with safe, meek English equivalents. But this narrowing of language adds power to the few words that survive. In Stroke, the victim's last remnants of vocabulary lose their meaning but become exotic and fresh in their newfound strangeness. Words like 'bivouac' and 'hyacinth' rise to the surface of a confused and self contained mind and 'throw open windows'. And in Seasons, forbidden Irish words have the power to soothe or burn.

Body's awareness of the strength of restrained, clipped language is apparent throughout these intense, impressive poems. He writes with concentrated lucidity about people whose own eloquence has been stripped away.

Sarah Tierney
City Life, Feb-March 2003

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