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Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Many Cafés of John Welch

A new publication from John Welch’s The Many Press has just appeared. Cafés by Abdulkareem Kasid is the first extensive publication of this Iraqi poet whose work is well-known in the Arab world. The café as a site of sociability and meeting place for writers features prominently in literary life in Iraq and the sequence of lyric pieces here gives an insight into a world of lightness underpinned by a depth of focus which makes one want to read them over and over again.


Copies of this delightful chapbook can be obtained from The Many Press, 15 Norcott Road, London N16 7BJ priced at £3.50 post free.


A new collection of John Welch’s own poetry has also appeared from Shearsman. Its Halting Measure covers a range of themes but there is a constant preoccupation with the problems and ambiguities surrounding the making of poems, “our words like scented gardens for the blind.”

Jeremy Hilton will be reviewing this fine new collection in Tears in the Fence.



New book on J.H. Prynne: Levity of Design

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, has just produced a new book on Prynne’s poetry. Written by Wit Píetrzak, an Assistant Professor in the Department of British Literature and Culture at the University of Lódź in Poland, this book is divided into four sections:


  1. Subjectivity under Siege
  2. Disentangling the Subject
  3. Beyond Stagnation
  4. Stories of Disentanglement in Blue Slides at Rest


The author’s acknowledgements page conveys an engagement with the work which is thoroughly explored in this splendid new book. Wit Píetrzak writes that his book ‘is the result of a sudden, yet profound fascination with the poetry of J.H. Prynne. Not only has his work exerted an enormous influence over my

understanding and appreciation of poetry but also has brought about changes in my perception of the task of the literary critic.’


‘There are books that we simply have to write, in order to put in writing the genuine amazement with a particular oeuvre, to phrase the peculiar thrall in which it has kept us; this is one of those books.’


On a personal note it is heartening to see that there are numerous quotations in this book from David Caddy, Rod Mengham, Simon Perril and Nigel Wheale whose essays on Prynne appeared in A Manner of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne, edited by Ian Brinton (Shearsman 2009). Ian will be contributing an account of the late Prynne poem, ‘As Mouth Blindness’, to Tears  57.


Thanks to Peter Riley I now have a copy of the review of Kitchen Poems that Douglas Oliver wrote for a Cambridge newspaper. Titled ‘Pioneer in Poetry’ it is a refreshing view of that early sequence of pieces that had first appeared in Andrew Crozier’s The English Intelligencer. Here is a taster:


‘Prynne’s verse-line is often itself a glissade, but an intricate one always subject to a masterly use of pause. Line-endings and beginnings are important clues to what he is doing, partly because of the way they make meaning stagger into the awkward and difficult entrances and partly as a clue to the glissade’s return and departure.’

Robert Duncan

Two new books about Robert Duncan which will be reviewed in Tears 57.


Lisa Jarnot’s biography of Duncan, subtitled ‘The Ambassador from Venus’, appeared recently from University of California Press and it is likely to remain as the official life of this immensely important West Coast poet for many years to come. With so many quotations from previously unpublished notebooks this biography is a mine of wonderful things. From his early days teaching at Black Mountain College we can read this notebook entry:


‘In search of the makings of poetry we are going to turn back to the very seeds of language, back to that first beginning to distinguish words which is a beginning of newly distinguishing the world.’


This is the time of The Opening of the Field.


Michael Rumaker’s account of Robert Duncan in San Francisco was first published by Grey Fox Press in 1978 and it revolves around that year 1957 when many fellow Black Mountain students were migrating since the close of the College. It was the summer of the famous HOWL trial where Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Shigeyoshi Murao, of City Lights, were prosecuted for selling Ginsberg’s book. Michael Rumaker’s account of those times in that city is a sheer delight of engagement: the reader is drawn into the world of excitement and fear, poetry and police. A new edition of this essential book is appearing from City Lights in January 2013 and it will contain previously unpublished letters between Rumaker and Duncan as well as an interview conducted by Ammiel Alcalay & Megan Paslawski.




On the Cusp of Shearsman

Shearsman has recently published a wonderful book of reminiscences, autobiographical fragments and sheer feats of memory:


CUSP: recollections of poetry in transition


The Preface by the book’s editor, Geraldine Monk, sets the appetising tone:

This book is probably best described as a collective autobiography. With few exceptions the contributing poets write about their origins and influences and how they became involved in poetry. My main objective is to present the spirit of a brief era which, in retrospect, was exceptional in its momentum towards the democratisation and dissemination of poetry. The era or “cusp” I’m concentrating on is between World War II and the advent of the World Wide Web. Already extraordinary in its social, political and cultural upheaval, it seems even more heightened when set against the technological transformation which has since been unleashed.


The series of short pieces, each 8-10 pages long, by writers who were on the front-line of the small-press-magazine-poetry reading world around the country is simply a delight to read. It is a narrative of a world where there was a shared sense of excitement and bravado and its underlying thrust is always that ‘Poetry Matters’. Contributors range from Jim Burns and Peter Riley to Chris Torrance and Kris Hemensley; from Tony Baker and Peter Finch to Paul Buck and Nick Johnson. And more and so many more: Roy Fisher, Hannah Neate, Gillian Whiteley, Connie Pickard, Tom Pickard, John Freeman, Peter Hodgkiss, Alan Halsey & David Annwn, Fred Beake, Glenda George, John Seed, Tilla Brading, Tim Allen, Chris McCabe, Frances Presley, Ian Davidson, Anthony Mellors and, of course, the book’s editor Geraldine Monk.


Laurie Duggan will be reviewing this book in issue 57 of Tears in the Fence


And a new arrival from Oystercatcher: Peter Hughes’s excellent renderings of Petrach, Regulation Cascade. Twenty poems are presented in that familiar Oystercatcher style: attractively imaginative cover holding in 20 pages of clear white paper on which the poems sit firmly-framed in white space. As the first poem suggests, idea becomes object becomes love becomes laurel tree becomes thought becomes



Peter Hughes’s Selected Poems will be published by Shearsman next year, together with a volume of responses to his work, edited by Ian Brinton

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