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Alan Baker and Sarah Hayden from the Oystercatcher’s beak

Alan Baker and Sarah Hayden from the Oystercatcher’s beak

all this air and matter by Alan Baker

 

System Without Issue by Sarah Hayden

 

When these two little Oystercatchers arrived in the post they were accompanied by a note from the founder of the Press: ‘A brace of autumnal Oystercatchers for your table, with the compliments of the mizzly, leaf-littered season. These 2 are as alike as a dog & a cog in a pod.’

 

Alan Baker’s poems give us a clear sense of presence as this sequence contemplates ‘what might be made / from all this air and matter’. People and sounds shift their movements across the pages and the conditional ‘as if’ reminds us of a world which is waiting for words to give it shape. Whether reality can be found in ‘grey stone paths and stone-grey sky’ or in ‘wind in the grass’ will be a matter of the associations of language but what can never be doubted from a reading of these poems is that ‘the present has always existed’. It needs the lyrical poet to weave the outlines of a drawing that is ever on the move and so within a sonnet that begins with touches of O’Hara (‘stop for a coffee / at London Road Diner’) the fourth and fifth line move us forward

 

sunny day

 

and windy!

 

The foot of the piece holds the fragile construction up on the page as the waitress emphasises the present

 

in silhouette

as she wedges the wind-blown door

with a piece of cardboard

 

 

Sarah Hayden’s sequence of small-font texts present a feeling of authority from the beginning:

 

This is the song of the daughter born without a mother

This is how she spun out the cold nights when there was none to be tending [to]

This is how flat she lay

This is how clear the lines

How singular the purpose

How glossy her ripolin

And how ineffable her intention

 

That enamelled combination of the smooth, the glossy and the perfected sets a scene for a remarkable sequence of poems which, whilst at some moments eschewing any personal air, at other moments play within the linguistic associations of a lyrical tradition. One of the fascinating qualities of this writing is its ability to both keep the reader at arm’s length and at the same time to present an echoing yearning for attachment. The ‘system’ may be without issue but the interweaving of linguistic associations determine some very palpable issues.

 

Do order both of these splendid books; they are, in their different ways, just the right thing for the cold days ahead.

 

Ian Brinton, December 6th 2013

 

 

Tears in the Fence 58

Tears in the Fence 58

Tears in the Fence 58 is out and available from https://tearsinthefence.com/pay-it-forward/ and features poetry and fiction from Paul Kareem Tayyar, Giles Goodland, Robert Vas Dias, Sarah James, Rupert Loydell, Simon Turner, Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Kat Peddie, Tim Cresswell, David Andrew, Jeffrey Graessley, Simon Zonenblick, Jay Ramsay, Lydia Padellic, Alice Wooledge Salmon, Malcolm Povey, Carrie Etter, Ian Seed, Nicky Mesch, Michael Sforza, Hilda Sheehan, Richard Evans, Alice Lyons, Mike Duggan, Michael Grant, Sheila Hamilton, Andrew Darlington, Dorothy Lehane, Aidan Semmens, Dan O’Brien, Rosie Jackson, Lisa Mansell, Simon Currie, L.Kiew, Matt Haw, Jennifer K. Dick, Sarah Crewe, Michael Henry,  Peter Dent, Norman Jope and Sascha Akhtar

The critical section includes Jennifer K. Dick on Habib Tengour, Peter Hughes on Ed Dorn, Norman Jope on Gertrude Kolmar, Laurie Duggan on Gig Ryan, Oliver Dixon on Jorie Graham, David Caddy on Jim Burns, Jennifer K. Dick, Dzifa Benson on Linda Black, Fani Papageorgiou, Cora Greenhill on Sally Goldsmith, Jay Ramsay on Simon Jenner, Ian Brinton on D.H. Lawrence, selections from the Ian Brinton / Andrew Crozier Correspondence, Brian Hinton on David Caddy, plus regular columnists David Caddy, Rosie Jackson, Anthony Barnett and Ian Brinton.

Copies are available in the UK at £10. Please make cheques payable to Tears in the Fence, and send to David Caddy Portman Lodge, Durweston, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0QA. Copies elesewhere are £13 and available through the website. Please pay through the Donate button.

 

 

 

 

Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills

Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills

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.

 

David Caddy

 

 

 

‘an intuition of the particular’ Peter Hughes

‘an intuition of the particular’ Peter Hughes

‘An intuition of the particular’: some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes (Shearsman Books 2013), the companion volume to his Selected Poems, (Shearsman 2013), illuminates and excites the reader through close textual readings. Hughes is a poet, painter, musician and publisher of the award-winning Oystercatcher Press. He is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and accomplished poets currently working in England. His recent work translating Petrarch’s sonnets into the landscape of the Norfolk coast being both impressive and popular. This volume is a perceptive and useful accompaniment to his poetry.

Behoven 16

he would stalk

the winter quarters

of the circus

glaring at bears

The essays, edited by Ian Brinton, feature in an informative interview with John Welch, who also writes about publishing Hughes early collections. There are essays by Peter Riley on The Metro Poems, Derek Slade on three poems from Blueroads, John Hall on Behoven, Andrew Bailey on The Summer of Agios Dimitrios and Simon Howard on the Petrarch sonnets that significantly mark the range of Hughes’ output. David Kennedy and Simon Marsh offer insights into the ways that artists and musicians, such as Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Art Pepper, Keith Tippett, Beethoven and others have fuelled and shaped poetic sequences and collaborations. Nigel Wheale offers a reader’s response to the experience of reading Hughes over time. Gene Tanta writes on why poetic collaboration matters, Riccardo Duranti contextualises Hughes’ Italian poetic connections, and Ian MacMillan writes about Oystercatcher Press. Ian Brinton’s introductory essay highlights Hughes ability ‘to condense the universal into the field of local habitation and name.’ This wonderfully stimulating volume deserves to be read by anyone interested contemporary poetry.

David Caddy

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out! It is available from https://tearsinthefence.com/pay-it-forward/ and features poetry and fiction by Sean Street, Elizabeth Welsh, Lou Wilford, Pansy Maurer-Alvarez, Ben Hickman, Karoline von Günderrode, Lori Jakiela, Paul Kareem Tayyar, Rosie Jackson, Isobel Armstrong, Steven Earnshaw, Sarah Miller, Paul Matthews, Alexandra Sashe, Susmita Bhattacharya, Claire Crowther, Alistair Noon, Mélisande Fitzsimons, Gerard Greenway, Adam Fieled, Jennifer Compton, Alison Lock, Kevin McCann, Dorothy Lehane, Andrew Shelley, Melinda Lovell, Peter Robinson, Tess Joyce, Tim Allen, Jaime Robles, Noel King,  Geraldine Clarkson, Gavin Selerie, Steve Spence, Eleanor Perry and many others.

 

The critical section includes selections from Letters From Andrew Crozier to Ian Brinton, Andrew Duncan on Fiona Sampson’s Beyond The Lyric, Chrissy Williams on Chris McCabe, Michael Grant On Writing, Laurie Duggan on Geraldine Monk’s Cusp, Jeremy Hilton on David Caddy, John Welch, Robert Hampson on Ben Hickman, Sheila Hamilton on Melissa Lee-Houghton, Lindsey Holland, Frances Spurrier on The Best of British Poetry, Mandy Pannett on Rocco Scotellaro, Ian Brinton on Donald Davie, Jay Ramsay on Norman Jope, Pauline Stainer, Michael Grant on Anthony Barnett, Ric Hool on Mario Petrucci, Richard Humphreys on Clive Wilmer, Ben Hickman on Wide Range Chapbooks, and regular columnists David Caddy, Rosie Jackson, Anthony Barnett and Ian Brinton.

 

 

 

 

Two books by Ian Brinton from Shearsman Books

Two books by Ian Brinton from Shearsman Books

Thrills and Frills, Selected Prose of Andrew Crozier edited by Ian Brinton: Michael Schmidt once wrote that Crozier ‘is a magnificent critic, moving with the certainty of a glacier, gathering everything.’ This collection of Crozier’s prose contains work that has never been reprinted since its initial publication in magazines from the 1960s to 1990s as well as material that has never been published at all. It is very much a companion volume to An Andrew Crozier Reader (Carcanet 2012) and nothing from the former volume is repeated here.

 

‘An intuition of the particular’, some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes edited by Ian Brinton: these essays and interviews are by a range of critics and friends and they give a wide-ranging perspective on the work of this important contemporary poet whose work is going from strength to strength. The Knives Forks and Spoons Press has just published Snowclone Detritus, Hughes’s take on Petrarch’s sonnets 97-116. ‘This is terrific work’ says John James. Peter Hughes’s Selected Poems will form a highlight of the forthcoming Shearsman reading at Swedenborg Hall in Bloomsbury on Tuesday May 7th at 7.30. for further details see the Shearsman website.

 

The Shearsman books are available from www.shearsman.com

Snowclone Detritus can be got from www.kinivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk

 

 

Poems of Yves Bonnefoy

Poems of Yves Bonnefoy

Ian Brinton & Michael Grant’s Poems of Yves Bonnefoy 1 has just appeared from Oystercatcher Press, the award-winning pamphlet publisher. These translations of Bonnefoy, the French poet and essayist born in 1923, interestingly differ from others in what is essentially a post-Heideggerian world. They delineate the separateness of the poetry of anguish, the bridge between light and darkness that comes after destruction.  Here there is silence after death, destruction, loss of God and the slow emergence of the eternal in the human voice, in bird song, in the forests of trees and memory and the healing of spring and fruit. ‘No beauty no colour detains’ this poetry that insists upon its own purity. It is the poetry of an uncertain quietness into living communication that considers ‘those processions of the light / through a land without birth or death,’ and the path to a new world.  There is a depth of voices coming out of the wilderness that is illustrated in the poem, ‘To the Voice of Kathleen Ferrier.’

 

I celebrate the voice merged with grey

Wavering in the distance of a lost song

As if beyond all pure form

Another song trembled, absolute, alone.

 

Here the translators indicate the loss of the song rather than the singing and thus the message rather than the medium. I immediately hear Ferrier’s contralto singing ‘Blow The Wind Southerly’ or Gluck’s ‘What Is Life?’ and recognize that sense of urgency coming out a generation that experienced personal loss during the Thirties and Forties and somehow have to find a way forward. One can sense more than a simple melancholy in her voice in Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde.’ Such elemental and eternal depth resonates in these carefully enunciated poems and spin off in disparate directions.

Peter Hughes & Petrarch

Peter Hughes & Petrarch

Two splendid new publications of Peter Hughes’s on-going project are now available.

 

Soft Rush (The Red Ceilings Press, www.theredceilingspress.co.uk) contains English versions of Petrarch’s sonnets 67-96:

 

‘this endlessly rescripted history

of radiant unsuitability

has reached another disastrous milestone

it’s sixteen it’s beautiful & it’s mine’

 

Quite Frankly (Like This Press, www.likethispress.co.uk) is subtitled ‘After Petrarch Canzoniere 1-28’:

 

As Peter Riley puts it on the back cover ‘Quite Frankly makes a kind of sausage of Peter Hughes’ skills as a poet—minced, compressed, stretched out in equal lengths and wrapped in a 14th Century skin. As is to be expected, a kind of kaleidoscopic verbal defiance keeps false and narrowed versions of living away, and as the sequence progresses, for all the ironic modernisation and free-play it enters deeper and deeper into a sincere realisation of the modern love-poem.’

 

References to both these volumes will be found in the forthcoming Shearsman book, An intuition of the particular, some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes edited by Ian Brinton. This volume is expected in April to stand alongside Shearsman’s Selected Poems of Peter Hughes. The appropriateness of this timing is wonderful since Petrarch asserted that he first saw Laura at Easter Mass on April 6th 1327.

 

 

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.’

An Andrew Crozier Reader

An Andrew Crozier Reader

Edited by Ian Brinton and published by Carcanet, this 276 page Reader presents considerable and pertinent commentary to accompany Andrew Crozier’s poems, critical prose and interviews. Attention is given to seminal moments in Crozier’s career, such as his involvement with Charles Olson, Carl Rakosi, George Oppen, J.H. Prynne, John James, Roy Fisher and his editing of The English Intelligencer, Wivenhoe Park Review and the Ferry Press.  The contextualization of Andrew Crozier’s poems is long overdue and this book serves to make available a substantial body of work that continues to excite and beguile. Close readings of Crozier’s poetry will greatly benefit from this splendid offering.

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