Flame Tree by Judith Kazantkis (Methuen, £3.95).
"THE best world is the body's world", according to Adrienne Rich in her poem Contradictions. Judith Kazantkis takes this as her credo in Flame Tree. Whether she's in Kensington Gardens or Key West, whether her subject is personal or political, she remains immersed in the world 'of the senses.
She possesses, above all, an omnivorous eye. The poems contain a plethora of finely observed detail: Ships, boats tremble there water pinned flat by dot on dot of rain.
At times the effect can seem bewilderingly kaleidoscopic. But the process of accretion by which the poems work is always controlled by a keen wit and an irony edged intelligence which take us beyond the concrete.
Adrienne Rich sees "the body's world" as "our raft among the abstract worlds". Ms Kazantkis' raft travels far and wide. She engages analytically with personal and public reality, with history, culture and myth in language that is vibrant and colloquial. The title poem is a case in point: the concrete is vividly evoked, but historical perspective is also employed (it centres on the Amazonian expedition made by the naturalist Louis Agassiz in 1862) to sound a prophetic warning about the threat to the rain forests.
A poem like "His Little Girl Feeds Daddy" shows Ms Kazantkis at her best. On Budget Day the cameras catch the Chancellor's daughter passing a "sugary bik" into "Daddy Bear's maw". That word "maw" cuts through the child's idiom to transform the fairy tale into a sinister image of political oppression. It's typical of the poems in this volume in the way it appropriates idiom and refashions myth (in this case, more specifically fairy tale) to make an urgent contemporary statement.