Twenty-five years ago Carcanet published an anthology of poems edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville. Crozier had been, of course, the founder of Ferry Press and Longville, in close collaboration with both John Riley and Gordon Jackson, had been the founder of Grosseteste Press. The introduction to A Various Art opens assertively:
This anthology represents our joint view of what is most interesting, valuable, and distinguished in the work of a generation of English poets now entering its maturity, but it is not an anthology of English, let alone British poetry. We did not begin with this distinction in mind; indeed, had we done so it might have appeared that there were no operative criteria by which to proceed. We knew this was not the case. Why, then, make such a distinction, as though the work of English or British poets did not belong to the general category of their national poetry?
The poets included in this seminal anthology are central to the developing quality of poetry in this country and many of them are still writing and publishing. In the words of Iain Sinclair, from his introduction to another central anthology Conductors of Chaos, ‘If these things are difficult, they have earned that right. Why should they be easy? Why should they not reflect some measure of the complexity of the climate in which they exist? Why should we not be prepared to make an effort, to break sweat, in hope of high return? There’s no key, no Masonic password; take the sequences gently, a line at a time. Treat the page as a block, sound it for submerged sonar effects. Suspend conditioned reflexes.’
Sinclair’s point is that ‘if it comes too sweetly, somebody is trying to sell you something.’
The names in A Various Art: Anthony Barnett, David Chaloner, Andrew Crozier, Roy Fisher, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, John Hall, Ralph Hawkins, John James, Tim Longville, Douglas Oliver, Peter Philpott, J.H. Prynne, John Riley, Peter Riley, John Seed, Iain Sinclair, Nick Totton.
In the current issue of PN Review there is an account of David Caddy’s So Here We Are (Shearsman Press) and its concluding sentence makes a point that associates Caddy’s work with precisely the assertive statements informing the introduction to A Various Art:
‘Beneath the attractive guise of belles-lettres we are alerted to the timbre of dissident voices whose music will continue to be heard through the jamming signals put out by the official keepers of the canon.’
Happy New Year to our readers.