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Withdrawals by James Byrne

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Each brilliantly crafted ‘take’ on ‘withdrawal’ here enacts the fug of addiction, the moodily out of focus, the slightly out of synch, the liminal out of control: whether backing away from childhood memories, from ‘the rutting yard of a local vigilante’ with his national flag, or even from the sea form that separates Britain in its withdrawal from Europe. Early engagements with tobacco are a metaphor for the mordant ghosts that have fanged us all. The various ‘yous’ of the texts are not subject-positions we want to fill, but we do, knowing we deserve all we get: ‘your last letter like someone divided at birth./ What kind of meat have you cooked into now?’ This ratty wisdom is far from serene. Withdrawals are – despite the cold hand of the title – sly encounters, with compensations of their own.


– Robert Sheppard



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