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Review: Still Life with Loops, by Eli Tolaretxipi

Eli Tolaretxipi was born, lives and works in San Sebastian, in the Basque country. She has published two poetry collections in Spanish (Castilian) and her work has been translated into French and Italian. She is the Spanish translator of Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Menna Elfyn and Tess Gallagher. The excellent introductory notes by Philip Jenkins and the introduction by Robert Crawford are most enlightening. I was especially taken by the summing up which I felt could not be bettered: She continues to speak while dreaming.

What is the best approach to reviewing collections of poems? After many years of doing this work I am still not certain. In this case 1 sat down and read the forty-seven poems straight through. The poems are easy enough to read in Spanish or English but, short as they are, each one has an intensity that needs to be savoured. Yes, I think most of them are deceptively simple. The impression I got was that the poet was reaching out beyond the obvious to attain the transcendental. If that sounds pretentious, I'm sorry since I have no wish to put people off reading them. Most of the poems are extremely visual which can give the impression of superficiality However, I was reminded of something John Cowper Powys said: The surface of things is the heart of things.

The poem that had the most impact on me has no title. It's about a cat bringing a dead robin into the house. For me it stirred up so many emotions, the very human jumbled up with the aesthetic.

The poems are written in free verse, subtly rhythmic in Spanish and English. Powerful stuff. Nothing as simple as it looks.

Congratulations to Arc - they've done us proud.