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Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Pursuit Of Happiness and Others

Three splendid new publications which are worth looking out for:


Laurie Duggan’s new collection of poems from Shearsman, The Pursuit of Happiness, has just appeared and as Tony Baker’s comment on the back cover makes so clear these poems have the virtue of never abandoning the local. They shift from Robert Creeley, burgers and South African wine on Charing Cross Road to images of Santa Claus in Anglo-Greek Paphos and Japanese tourist signs in the countryside of Haworth.


Another distinctive voice from Australian poetry is Ken Bolton whose Selected Poems 1975-2010 has also just appeared from Shearsman: ‘slippery, rapid-fire conjunctions—from savage to deflationary, pathetic to hilarious…there’s a deeply serious–& flip, gauche, & witty & almost self-canceling—consciousness at work’.


Selected Letters of Michael Rumaker is an absolute delight from Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative. Under the general editorship of Ammiel Alcalay these finely produced chapbooks  illuminate unexplored terrain of an essential chapter of 20th-century life. In this one there are letters to Robert Creeley, Donald Allen and Charles Olson with many references to Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, and John Wieners alongside many others.

Necessary Steps

Necessary Steps

It is five years since David Kennedy edited a splendid volume of essays, Necessary Steps (Shearsman) and I was reminded last night of how wide-ranging and imaginative that volume is. As the blurb says this is ‘a collection of essays about poetry’s continuing importance in bringing clarity to questions of attachment and separation, possession and loss.’ I was particularly struck by John Hall’s contribution titled ‘Falling Towards Each Other: Occasions of Elegy’ in which he reflects on forms of loss, especially deaths, and the forms and practices of words that we use to define and negotiate these. Referring to J.H. Prynne’s ‘Shadow Songs’ (first published in The English Intelligencer) he talks of the poem singing in the shadows of a sense of loss and, in a footnote, recalls Thomas Campion’s poem from A Booke of Ayres, ‘Follow your saint’. Campion writes of following

‘with accents sweet’ whilst yet never being able to overtake because the ‘sad noates’ always ‘fall at her flying feete’. The image here is of a fall, as it were, just behind the flying feet (at her heels) and in turn this reminded me of Thomas Hardy’s elegiac yearning to follow Emma in ‘The Going’. Hardy recognises that he cannot ever catch a glimpse of his dead wife again even if he were to follow ‘with wing of swallow’, those long-distant and swift travellers of the air. The dead are always JUST beyond the graspable. It also reminded me of the lines towards the end of W.S. Graham’s ‘The Thermal Stair’ where he asks Peter Lanyon ‘why is it you’re earlier away’; lines in which the domestic smallness of the movement are given perspective by juxtaposing them with the earlier hint at an evening in the pub where the ‘dark-suited man/Has set the dominoes out/On the Queen’s table’. ‘Has’ possesses a presence which suggests that ‘earlier away’ is a matter of going home. This essay is a delightful glance at the world of elegy and its importance within the minds of those left behind.

Writing & the Small Press Conference March 31


This was a well-organised and well-attended conference which took place at the Old Fire Station in Salford University. It was heartening to see how time and again the emphasis was placed upon the passionate concern for communicating which was not confined to economic market forces.

Robert Sheppard (Edge Hill University) gave an energetic and high-velocity talk on Bill Griffiths, Nickolai Duffy (Manchester Metropolitan) took us through the fifty years of Burning Deck publishing which was run by Rosmarie Waldrop from the basement in Providence Island and Lila Matsumoto (University of Edinburgh) presented a witty and visually delightful tour of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s connection with Wild Hawthorn Press. Ian Brinton gave an account of the early years of Ferry Press and how J.H. Prynne’s Brass nearly got de-railed.


Quote of the day: ‘A culture which despises its artists may be in greater need of those people than the one which values them.’

All credit to Scott Thurston, Lucie Armitt and Ursula Hurley for a terrific day’s word-hammering.


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