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Witness

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REVIEWED BY MARY KNIGHT


Sean Body, editor of Tarantula Publications and also editor of the magazine Brando's Hat, has written a wide ranging and sensitively tackled book, covering such topics as Auschwitz and Irish history. It is no surprise to learn he has won a short story competition. This comes out in his poem Camp Commandment, only five short stanzas but a memorable characterisation of a Nazi. Brought up as a catholic, "He had a steadfast faith: a world / purified, how words would fire— /Fatherland, Duty, Order."

Body understates, suggests, never overwrites. Pity and horror are there in these poems, a superb command of language, total control. Take this poem
Reprisal: "They found him above in the road / face down in the hurt gravel // fronded with a thin ice / like calico left out to bleach / the hole in his head / was stamped like a thumb print." A poem about the Irish troubles that just says what it has to say with a lyric intensity and leaves it at that.

He has the eye of a painter. In this poem,
One legged Seagull, we can see the seagull so clearly: 'Still as a mystic / …So perfectly it's balanced / on wineglass stem // the air around it hushed / it scarcely breathes // or stirs a quill / a ballerina of stillness.' All in all, a powerful collection; one that does not look away from horror but embraces beauty.

Mary Knight
PROP 8, Spring 2000


REVIEWED BY 'AGRAMAN'

This is the latest collection from one of the most memorable of that wordy and worthy crew, The Manchester Poets. Seán Body has the gift of tackling the most delicate subjects with great insight, imagination and sensitivity. The book is divided into sections, the first of which, 'Witness', deals with international news events, including the horrors of the concentration camp as seen from unusual viewpoints, including, in Gold, a young girl's excitement on receiving jewellery stolen from corpses. It's not all tragedy, however, as the celebratory, A Hymn for Africa recalls the images of the great journeys taken to vote in the first free elections in South Africa: 'the sticks I walk on / my legs' pain / is beautiful'.

Other sections explore various social and personal relationships.
Honeymoon Snap leaves the true transparency: 'the way promises become / disappointments to be lived with'. There's a moving summary of the Suzanne Capper murder in Victim, 'Against six of them it was hard to fight / back. But she'd endure consciousness: / charge them with her charred breath'. Scary. Even more so is the poem, Scary, which brilliantly portrays the twisted logic of the psychopath.

'Flight', relates to a visit to Northern Ireland and the poems come to terms with the region's realities. The final selection, is a collection of both the terminal sufferings, and fond remembrances, of loved ones, and proves to be a rewarding read indeed, despite the difficult subject matter. Many of Seán Body's poems have won prizes and accolades from the literary world, and it's impossible to convey in a short review how his clever selection of words can often convey a story without it having been told.

'Agraman'
City Life


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