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Review: Twist, by Pippa Little

Pippa Little's Twist presents work where craft is to the foreground. She is an exponent of what might be categorised as the well-tempered poem, adroitly crafted with frequent displays of virtuosity The risk with this approach is that it might seem to be courting approval too knowingly but Little gets the balance right between over-egging and underplaying. It is the kind of poetry that goes down well with many, but by no means all, editors and competition judges. Her list of publishing credits bears this out. She has outstanding 'form' as a winner of poetry competition prizes and her work has appeared in most of the leading quality magazines.

The collection is an album of free standing poems most of which play with themes suggested by 'twist'. This is done pretty exhaustively with the notable exception of the 1960s dance tune hit by Chubby Checker. Single word titles for collections may sometimes be viewed as lacking impact and memorability but in this instance 'twist' and all the associations connected with it provides such a rich vein to trace that any shortcomings with regard to the title are more than compensated for in the body of the work.

The prevailing tone is literary but alloyed with enough of the demotic to temper this. She understands how to produce harmonious language that stays the right side of stilted.

... In addition to this, she can write with tremendous brio, reminiscent of Manley Hopkins, which makes for an exhilarating read:

in winters hackle-laden
with thorny haberdashery
in high summer, cobweb cupboards'
handsels of love-entangle, heliotropes -

who helms this hot-potch,
this crinkle-crankie habitation?
('Riddle with Two Answers')

... there are many instances to enjoy of what makes life worth living, not least of which is the closing stanza of 'Stilt Walking the Tyne':

I'll summon this day forward, the rest of my life,
how set loose by one another
winged and bridled
we gave ourselves the distance.

... [Twist is] immaculately executed.