Books: In brief

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The Independent Culture
Trembling Hearts in the Bodies of Dogs: New and Selected Poems by Selina Hill, Bloodaxe pounds 8.95. A very Hillish sort of title, like its predecessors My Darling Camel (1988) and The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (1989). Both are reprinted here, in selection, with a new section called 'Aeroplanes of the World'. It's less compelling than A Little Book of Meat (not included here), her last book, but one that explores similar modes and themes. She seems to have fallen in love with long, lachrymose sentences ending in prepositions, which alternate with some stiffly formal poems, including sonnets. 'My Life with Men', 'How to be Happy', 'My First Bra' - it's a poetry which risks daftness in search of those freakish joys and fears we're meant to discard as grown-ups. Readable, sharp, recommended.

The Testament of the Reverend Thomas Dick by W N Herbert, Arc pounds 7.95. More high jinks from one of Scotland's brightest young poets, domiciled in Oxford. Dick was 'our MacGonagall of science', a 19th-century Dundonian astronomer 'who dreamed of a universe where angels rub shoulders with flying saucers': heaven-sent copy for the playful imagination. There's another sequence about weird and wonderful objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford (subject of a classic early James Fenton poem), and some 'Pictish Whispers' about various historical per-

sonages in which 'truth', 'fact' and 'propaganda' are sieved in the riddle of words.