Making up

Julian Symons

  • Lipstick, Sex and Poetry by Jeremy Reed
    Peter Owen, 119 pp, £14.95, June 1991, ISBN 0 7206 0817 1
  • A poet could not but be gay by James Kirkup
    Peter Owen, 240 pp, £16.95, June 1991, ISBN 0 7206 0823 6
  • There was a young man from Cardiff by Dannie Abse
    Hutchinson, 211 pp, £12.99, April 1991, ISBN 0 09 174757 0
  • String of Beginners by Michael Hamburger
    Skoob Books, 338 pp, £10.99, May 1991, ISBN 1 871438 66 7

The first page of Jeremy Reed’s ‘autobiographical exploration of sexuality’ finds him with ‘a red gash of lipstick’ on his mouth, pondering whether to take the ten steps down to a beach where men sunbathe nude. He is androgynous, 16, ‘looking for a new species’. James Kirkup also admits to androgyny and to a passion for make-up, from childhood when he experimented with his mother’s make-up box, through the time when, as head of the English Department at the Bath Academy of Art, he appeared in his own play for children wearing white tights and with gold sequins on his upper eyelids, right into middle age. Swinburne had a sympathetic line or two for androgynes:

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