Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills: Selected Prose edited by Ian Brinton (Shearsman Books 2013), companion volume to An Andrew Crozier Reader (Carcanet Press 2012), assembles more of the poet’s uncollected essays that centre on close readings of poetry. Although I never heard Crozier lecture, I know that his Doctoral students at Sussex University testified to his outstanding rigour and exactitude. This quality of attention to detail is abundant through the collection, which is divided into two parts and has an introduction by the editor, Ian Brinton.
The British part, for example, contains the famous essay where he tracks down the real author of a paper attributed to Basil Bunting. It also includes reviews of H.D., Chris Torrance, Peter Riley and Tony Lopez, critical essays on John Riley, Donald Davie and the fate of Modernism, introductions to Andrew Marvell and Alexander Pope, a pioneering essay on The New Apocalypse and 1940s poetry, the introduction to the A Various Art (1987) anthology, and obituaries for Douglas Oliver and Barry MacSweeney. The fate of Modernism essay is a work of retrieval for the variety of poetries that appeared in what we now call Neo-Romanticism, the complexities and variety of which continues to unfold, and were excised by the Movement, and its successors, in the Fifties and Sixties. The essay serves as an outline for a book that was initially rejected by Cambridge University Press in 1992 on the grounds that they could not find anyone sufficiently knowledgeable to give them an informed evaluation of the proposal. His proposal was revised and accepted in 1995, after an independent advocate was found, but the book remained unwritten. Crozier died not long after retiring from teaching in 2008. His archive is now at the University of Cambridge.
The magisterial quality of his criticism can be seen in his review of David Shapiro’s study of John Ashbery and elegant summary of both critical work and poet in two pages of tight analysis. Crozier’s work in American poetry, which forms the second part of this book, centres on the importance of the young Pound, The Objectivists and contains essays on Carl Rakosi and Louis Zukofsky. His work on George Oppen appeared in the Reader. His literary detective work, similar to Jim Burns in openness to forgotten poets and materials, also includes an essay on Harry Roskolenko, a self-educated Trotskyist, whose work appears to have been a hybrid of American Objectivism and British New Apocalypse, and first appeared in Australia in the Forties. Such a discovery confirms the extent of transatlantic exchange between poets and magazines in the Thirties and runs counter to official poetic histories of the period. The importance of such essays in producing more accurate accounts of the past is undeniable.