Hugo Williams's account of a long finished love affair might seem a sort of diary of events, a naturalistic catalogue of passion. In fact, of course, it is highly artificial, its form a deliberate arrangement of memory as meticulous in its way as a vase of lillies. Consider, for example, his very avoidance of overt rhyme, his shunning of jog-trot rhythms. Consider too the very absence of gestural hyperbole, or any sort of excess. Williams is an utterly individual writer, but he is also the heir to the Movement poets of the 1950s with their pose of modesty, their almost narcissistic austerity, their avoidance of any vocal register more demonstrative than the conversational. Like Larkin, Williams celebrates the things that didn't happen, the missed opportunities of life: "The hotel cost too much/so we didn't even touch the bed"; "For I am sorry about what happened at the fairground the other day./ For I regret not going on the slides"; "If only they were waiting for us somewhere, the nights we didn't use, the things we didn't do.." This is all the amorous equivalent of Larkin regretting the glamorous childhood he never had. Williams has turned the grammatical negative into a stylistic device quite as self-conscious as the deployment by other poets of hyperbole. At the end of one stanza, blaming himself with typical self-disparagement for the unsatisfactory and unresolved nature of the affair, he uses the device twice in one line, coming close in the process to self-contradiction: "it was my decision," he remarks on page 44, "to do nothing that made nothing happen." The line is a shrug that is also a kind of flourish. The cumulative effect of all this is a variety of anti-rhetoric, the raising of anti-art into art, of ordinariness into a careful mode of chic. Williams never gives himself away; in the process he discloses himself utterly. Like the stammering lamp in the very last line of the volume, it is the poet himself who is "somehow refusing to blow." Yet this very self-containment represents a quiet noise of implosion. The judges of the T.S. Eliot Award chose well.