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Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry

Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry

Edited by Ian Hamilton & Jeremy Noel-Tod

 

Last week I put a few words on the UK Poetry List about this new edition of a very useful book and I make no apology for repeating them here:

 

  • Some inclusions are very welcome indeed such as Laurie Duggan, William Fuller, Lynette Roberts (amongst many, many others) and some updating is extremely sharp as with reference to J.H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats and Ben Watson’s Blake in Cambridge.

 

  • Some exclusions are a pity and I miss seeing Kelvin Corcoran, John Hall and Ian Patterson. The exclusion of Anthony Barnett is rather more bizarre given his Collected Poems of 1987 (recently updated and enlarged) as well as his important role in the field of poetry publication including the first collection of Prynne as well as that of Douglas Oliver and Andrew Crozier. His Allardyce, Barnett editions of modern poets also included the first collected poems and translations of Veronica Forrest-Thomson, an important volume which pre-dates the one mentioned in the V.F-T. entry.

 

  • Some updates needed a touch more overseeing from the central control tower and I wonder how many errors may lurk within the 700 pages. Notably: the entry for Henry Treece is simply incorrect in that it says that ‘There is a selection and discussion of Treece’s verse by Andrew Crozier in Conductors of Chaos’ No, there isn’t! I suspect that Crozier would have been very happy to provide one if he had been asked.

 

  • However, when all is said and done it is an important book with a wealth of information and it will, I suspect, remain the best of its encyclopaedic type for some years to come. I look forward to reading it more closely.

Well done J N-T.

 

Since then I have been assured by the editor (the living one!) that the Crozier/Treece blip will be corrected before the paperback edition appears. Whilst my curiosity remains over the exclusion of Barnett I have now a much greater overview of the whole project and can see how valuable it is going to be to those whose awareness of contemporary poetry is limited to the bookshelves of Waterstones or the catalogues put out by Faber & Faber. I recall from my own teaching days that all reading lists are, to a certain extent, an indicator of the individual interests of the lists’ compilers. This doesn’t mean that there is no accepted corpus, comment upon which must be visible, but that the lesser known areas of focus represent the interests of the person who created the list. Jeremy Noel-Tod’s task is a very unenviable one in that this volume carries with it a weight of imprimatur: it is published by Oxford University Press. The task is also unenviable because it will always make some poets unhappy when they discover that they don’t appear. I think that the overall scope of what the new editor has tried to do is admirable and, having said that, I now feel liberated to name a few rejoicings and regrets:

 

Terrific to see Roger Langley, Peter Larkin and Tony Lopez there; shame that there isn’t an entry for Nicholas Johnson, poet and founder of Etruscan Books. Delighted to see Gig Ryan in (look out for the review Laurie Duggan has written for Tears 58); pity there wasn’t room for Tim Longville and more on Grosseteste Press. Absolutely right to see Andrea Brady, Sean Bonney and Keston Sutherland; pity not to see Peter Hughes.

 

Top prize goes to Neil Pattison, Reitha Pattison and Luke Roberts for getting a mention for their Certain Prose of The English Intelligencer, published by Mountain Press last year. This small Poetry Press has produced some distinguished writing (including recent work by Danny Hayward) and I cannot be alone in hoping that there may be a follow-up to the Intelligencer volume.

 

Ian Brinton

 

 

 

 

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