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Review: Carnival Edge: New and Selected Poems, by Katherine Gallagher

Jane Holland, Poetry Review Vol.100:3, Autumn 2010

There's always something special about a New and Selected; for Katherine Gallagher this selection has a Carnival Edge, its natural territory the exotic and unknown, the fringe and carnivalesque. Starting with her later poems and working backwards, I was struck by how much cool control Gallagher exercises over emotional material, an acrobat walking the high-wire, making my mark. By contrast, the mid-section poems revel in sensuality and heat, a shimmering intensity glimpsed through shelves of cloud. Here, lovers are sewn together by the night and Gallagher's lines are more exotic, steeped in the danger of travelling. Her earliest poems hint at a strong desire for control, echoing more recent work, as though Gallagher's poetry is gradually returning to its source these days, the poet once more adopting the youthful and ambitious persona of a trapeze-artist, daily spinning her taut body / afloat in territory / she would claim as hers