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W. N. Herbert, Omnesia: Alternative Text, 176 pp, £9.95 paperback; W. N. Herbert, Omnesia: Remix, 176 pp, £9.95 paperback, Bloodaxe Books.

I was attracted by the idea of Omnesia, “a book in two volumes and neither”. As Herbert says in his introduction, the two “Hopefully … make one sense read in isolation, and a further read together.” Reading them, I admired Herbert’s intelligence, imaginative energy, originality and range but was disappointed in the end. The fundamental idea would have emerged more clearly if both books had been leaner. And again and again I felt that poems read like brilliant drafts rather than finished work. “The Lamb”, present in both volumes, can show what I mean.

It describes the slaughter of a lamb … Continue Reading