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Review: The End of the Trial of Man, by Paul Stubbs

For nearly two decades (or perhaps millennia) Paul Stubbs has been engaged in the task of imagining what lies beyond the imagination: "I would describe what I do to be a writing of no nation or race or even 'world', and [it] is at the very least what I would call an anti-ontological work. Thus, I could just as well do what I do sitting upon the ledge of a still-travelling comet." There is no guardrail to his kind of project, no literary guide or physical limit, only exploration.

The extraordinary thing about the poems in The End of the Trial of Man, his fifth collection, is that they never obey the so-called rules of creative writing. They never speak politely from the visible realm to the invisible, but, like X-rays, they get straight under the surface and make images of insides: "as along the wrought mental-wires of my brain vibrates now the voice of no God". We've grown used to a different kind of poetry.

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Everything about the verse is transgressive and brand-new and seemingly home-made. It's no good tutting over its metrical or grammatical misbehaviour - you must watch the visions and let the rules remake themselves.

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The appeal of this book (and the loneliness and shock of it) is the authenticiyt of its faith - not faith in the decayed sense of something terrified and retrospective, but faith as a form of scepticism: faith staring inwards at the death of God and going on staring until something new appears beyond. There is an earnestness, almost an innocence at work in the imagery, which, in spite of its relentless pace, has nne of the coldness of imagist poetry. It is warmly, biologically embodied, full of ribs and vertebrae and membranes and umbilical cords as if the body, scattered but still sensitive, were the only reliable authority.