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A Various Art

A Various Art

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.

 

 

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.’

Beats and Outsiders

Jim Burns’s new volume of essays from Penniless Press Publications is a real delight. This third collection of essays and reviews, following on the heels of Beats, Bohemians and Intellectuals and Radicals, Beats and Beboppers, includes fascinating pieces on the world of the sixties in England. Writing in 1970 about the poetry scene for instance Jim notes that Andrew Crozier’s The English Intelligencer was ‘to my mind the spur to much of the present activity in this sphere.’ He flags up important names from that time, names which have grown impressively over the years:

‘Lists of names are not the best way to prove a point, but the following poets need to be mentioned in this article. Lee Harwood, for my money one of the best young English moderns (see his The White Room, Fulcrum Press) and a genuinely international avant-gardist; his early influences were as much French surrealists as American Beats, Tom Raworth, curiously disjointed at times, but with an original point of view, Chris Torrance, whose Green Orange Purple Red(Ferry Press) catches the moods and rhythms of contemporary life far better than any of the so-called “pop” poets, David Chaloner, with a fragmentary style which, at its best, skilfully translates shifting impressions into poetry. And John Temple, too little known or published here unfortunately. Like Harwood and Crozier he’s spent some time in the USA, and has naturally absorbed American technical innovations and applied them to his own experiences in the North-East of England.’

Incidentally, catch hold of the latest issue of Angel Exhaust which contains a David Chaloner section of previously unpublished material as well as an overview of the poet by David Caddy:

Angel Exhaust 22

A David Chaloner memorial. By singular good fortune AE has been given access to the archive of his letters. We chose a time of dialogue with John Hall. David’s poems take place in a ‘permanent present’ and these remarkable letters are meant to recover a ‘deep present’, the Now in which the poems were written. This feature presents a moment of time preserved like a crystal, a formative moment for poetry. It is 1969 and: & just abt to begin Jeremy Prynne’s book The White Stones have you seen that at all What have you been doing since our last letter & where are your poems appearing I’ve not seen any for such a long time Did you see the last copy of collection &  the last resuscitator I thought you’d’ve been there

160 pp. cost £7.00 including postage. cheques payable to Andrew Duncan. at 21 Querneby Road, Nottingham, Notts NG3 5JA.

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