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Tag Archives: Barry MacSweeney

MacSweeney: Strap Down in Snowville

MacSweeney: Strap Down in Snowville

Paul Batchelor’s edition of essays about Barry MacSweeney is here at last from Bloodaxe Books as number 13 in their Newcastle / Bloodaxe Poetry Series and the opening paragraph of the editor’s introduction is immediately spot on:

‘The last full-length collection that Barry MacSweeney lived to see published was The Book of Demons. Many of the most impressive aspects of this volume—the intricate symbology, the vertiginous swoop of registers, the unsparing wit, the complexity of characterisation, the syntactical resourcefulness—had been earned over a lifetime of restless self-testing; but this same restlessness simultaneously gives the book the kind of daring, hubristic, allusive, raw dazzle usually associated with a precocious first collection. The book draws its power from such contradictions: a chronicle of failure, it has a swaggering confidence; a departure, it felt to many like a homecoming’.

This is a wide-ranging book and it should certainly reawaken interest in a poète maudit from the North-East whose area of focus ranged from Chatterton to Bob Dylan, from Seventeenth-Century nonconformist radicals to the social consequences of Thatcherism, from Mary Bell to Apollinaire.

This fine introduction to MacSweeney contains essays by Harriet Tarlo, Matthew Jarvis, Andrew Duncan, William Walton Rowe, John Wilkinson, Peter Riley, W.N. Herbert, Terry Kelly and Jackie Litherland as well as by the editor himself.

Among the cast who do not make an appearance my biggest regret is to see nothing from Luke Roberts but, of course, this volume has certainly been talked about for some years now and it may well be that he was not on the tracks of ‘Pookah Swoony Sweeney Swan Ludlunatic’ back then. However, I am hoping that I can persuade him to write a review of this new book for the next issue of Tears!

Ian Brinton, December 17th 2013.

Hool Goes There

Hool Goes There

Ric Hool’s Selected Poems has just appeared from Red Squirrel Press and it can be obtained from Sheila Wakefield, the Founding Editor of that interesting and attractive publishing venture. The address is Briery Hill Cottage, Stannington, Morpeth NE61 6ES: www.redsquirrelpress.com

 

It is very appropriate that this new volume of Ric’s should come out from the North East since this is where he hails from. Equally appropriate is the inclusion in the volume of the ‘Five Devotions to Barry MacSweeney’ which had originally been published in the summer of 2002 in Tears Number 32. When Ric Hool’s Collective Press volume, Making It, appeared in 1998 it had a back cover which included MacSweeney’s blurb: ‘I like it very much and find the firmness and sureness of the lyricism refreshing in this cynical and flaky world. A poet with a joyful soul is rare indeed these days.’ Another quotation on the back of that little volume is from Chris Torrance who commented that ‘the poet is not supplying any easy answers, but posing dilemmas that are philosophical, ethical, ecological. It is work that I can read again, knowing that it is durable, poetry that can move with time.’

 

Those comments are equally appropriate to this new volume and as Fiona Owen says ‘Themes such as space, mapping and music trickle through the book like a stream.’

 

With these comments in mind I want to highlight the new Oystercatcher Press volume of Amy Cutler’s Nostalgia Forest. This is an astonishingly attractive chapbook which everybody should get hold of and Peter Larkin’s comments on it are worth taking very seriously indeed: ‘Though any forest memory may be at best like one of Aristotle’s “shaggy waxes”, these diagrammatic profiles offer intimations of calamity or nurture, or a tonal or atonal transversal of timber, itself an astute truncation of nostalgia’s own magnetic time-intervals.’ If you are in London on Thursday June 6th then do go to the evening of drinks and live music at the launch of a belfry exhibition of small press poems, one-off editions, book works, art and archival photographs. Copies of Nostalgia Forest will be on sale there.

 

Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig                                            /                                             Tha tìm, am fiadh, an Coille Hallaig

7.30 at The Belfry Art Gallery, St John on Bethnal Green, 200 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA

Ian Brinton

 

 

 

Paladin Poetry: Re/Active Anthologies

Paladin Poetry: Re/Active Anthologies

In February 1990 Andrew Crozier wrote to Ian Paten the Editorial Director of Grafton Books concerning the possible publication of his own work alongside that of Donald Davie and C.H. Sisson in one of Iain Sinclair’s new triad of poets: Paladin’s Re/Active Anthologies. Crozier’s letter stressed the importance of the Grafton poetry programme and recognised that it is ‘perceived as such I know by literary and academic colleagues.’ He concluded ‘I am very glad to be associated with it.’ Iain Sinclair’s editorial work with Paladin had overseen the publication of some remarkable volumes at the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties including John Ashbery’s April Galleons, Gregory Corso’s Mindfield, Jeremy Reed’s Red-Haired Android, Douglas Oliver’s Three Variations on the Theme of Harm, the Crozier-Longville anthology A Various Art as well as his own collection Flesh Eggs & Scalp Metal. As if to pick up on the ambitious Penguin venture of the seventies of placing three poets together between the covers, so to speak, Sinclair’s new venture of Re/Active Anthologies was a sheer delight. The first to appear contained a subtitle, future exiles, 3 London Poets, and represented the work of Allen Fisher, Bill Griffiths and Brian Catling. As the blurb put it these poets are ‘rogue angels, dynamic presences as yet largely ignored in the cultural life of the capital.’ The second volume to appear was subtitled ghosts in the corridor and contained a substantial selection of work by Crozier, Davie and Sisson. The Andrew Crozier poems were of course selected by himself and it is no surprise to see ‘The Veil Poem’ and ‘Pleats’ in their entirety as well as some separate delights such as ‘The Heifer’, a poem written ‘after Carl Rakosi’ and for Andrew’s wife, Jean. The third of these remarkable anthologies, the tempers of hazard , contained work by Thomas A. Clark, Barry MacSweeney and Chris Torrance. Sinclair’s own account in Lights Out for the Territory says it all:
The Tempers of Hazard was launched with a reading at Compendium. And then rapidly pulped…An instant rarity. A book that began life as a remainder and was now less than a rumour. A quarter of a century’s work for the poets: scrubbed, reforgotten.
Referring to the pulping of this last Re/Active Anthology Chris Torrance wrote to me eight years ago to say that ‘The Paladin Glowlamp was already written into the script. I was forewarned; I could see which way the wind was blowing, the wind of razors shredding text, of Farenheit 451.’

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