The following review appeared in The Gig #2, in March 1999.
The Gig, c/o Nate Dorward, 109 Hounslow Ave., Willowdale, ON, M2N 2B1, Canada;
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Pete Smith, 20/20 Vision. Wild Honey (16a Ballyman Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland; 1998. 24pp.
The wit catches the ear: not the deadpan standup comedy sometimes the fate of the New Sentence, but a mode of inquiry into poetic style and into cultural authority. There’s a wish to avoid “the poet shrunk to a witness”, reproducing the personal, religious and social nostalgias on offer: “technes create / instant nostalgia, break you and your dear ones / into timed fragments: zoom, smile, cut; / in your pram with soother, in your graduation / gown, in your senile frame with demented smile.” High prophecy may be unavailable, but one can be “eloquent” in “disbelief”:
The almost anencephalic boy is the barest encoded stem still
viable. We last saw him in his early teens in his cot
not flinching at the lighter flame held to his featureless face....
Once poetry was a mole now it’s all antenna, a raw nerve
flicked on by every shifting wave: reflection’s for fuddy-duddies.
A two-inch flame: he didn’t flinch; I did and do, who am his ward.
A man and his language being moved from the authorial plank
into the rough and smooth joins of prepositional demotic:
over there; to that; within him; against such; for us; for you; for them.