Frank O'Hara's distinctive voice, not unlike that of Don Marquis's Mehitabel ("toujours gai, archie"), is there a little in Martinez, and also in Kenneth Koch's One Train (Carcanet, pounds 7.95). Koch is the most prolific, inventive and long-lasting member of the New York School, liable to surprise by suddenly breaking into fourteeners for a version of Ovid (see his account of "Io") or finding some fresh way of converting "Romantic hooey" into a serious and dewy-eyed love poem ("Energy in Sweden"). The publisher has done him no favours by choosing a too-small typeface, and the daffy innocence sometimes teeters on the Disneyesque. But more often than not Koch puts a smile on your face ("Autumn a crisp Republicanism is in the air") and a zing in your mental step.
Weather "has a prior claim to everywhere," suggests "A Nocturnal" in Matthew Francis's Blizzard (Faber pounds 6.99). He's good on its vagaries, though sometimes prone to descend from elementals to "a Laura Ashley peasant radiance". The narrative poem "Occupied City", about a German officer exploring a captured French town, is more rewarding than the title poem, a long sequence of sonnets about an apocalyptic snowstorm. So is "After the Bee", an excellent meditation on that "thin papery feeling", as Plath called it, which follows pain. The poem is faithful both to body and mind in an extended image of the forest that is precise, poetic and unsentimental. "A Blind Man in the Forest" picks up a similar theme ("Without walls it's an enormous place, / oneself") but rather underlines the obvious sym- bolism. Francis has impressive formal skills and a nicely understated manner; his quiet accuracies grow on you at successive readings. I'd trade some of the tastefulness, however, for a little less obliquity and more risk- taking.Reuse content