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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

 

 

 

 

On the Cusp of Shearsman

Shearsman has recently published a wonderful book of reminiscences, autobiographical fragments and sheer feats of memory:

 

CUSP: recollections of poetry in transition

 

The Preface by the book’s editor, Geraldine Monk, sets the appetising tone:

This book is probably best described as a collective autobiography. With few exceptions the contributing poets write about their origins and influences and how they became involved in poetry. My main objective is to present the spirit of a brief era which, in retrospect, was exceptional in its momentum towards the democratisation and dissemination of poetry. The era or “cusp” I’m concentrating on is between World War II and the advent of the World Wide Web. Already extraordinary in its social, political and cultural upheaval, it seems even more heightened when set against the technological transformation which has since been unleashed.

 

The series of short pieces, each 8-10 pages long, by writers who were on the front-line of the small-press-magazine-poetry reading world around the country is simply a delight to read. It is a narrative of a world where there was a shared sense of excitement and bravado and its underlying thrust is always that ‘Poetry Matters’. Contributors range from Jim Burns and Peter Riley to Chris Torrance and Kris Hemensley; from Tony Baker and Peter Finch to Paul Buck and Nick Johnson. And more and so many more: Roy Fisher, Hannah Neate, Gillian Whiteley, Connie Pickard, Tom Pickard, John Freeman, Peter Hodgkiss, Alan Halsey & David Annwn, Fred Beake, Glenda George, John Seed, Tilla Brading, Tim Allen, Chris McCabe, Frances Presley, Ian Davidson, Anthony Mellors and, of course, the book’s editor Geraldine Monk.

 

Laurie Duggan will be reviewing this book in issue 57 of Tears in the Fence

 

And a new arrival from Oystercatcher: Peter Hughes’s excellent renderings of Petrach, Regulation Cascade. Twenty poems are presented in that familiar Oystercatcher style: attractively imaginative cover holding in 20 pages of clear white paper on which the poems sit firmly-framed in white space. As the first poem suggests, idea becomes object becomes love becomes laurel tree becomes thought becomes

POEM

 

Peter Hughes’s Selected Poems will be published by Shearsman next year, together with a volume of responses to his work, edited by Ian Brinton

Shearsman in London on May 8th

At the last of this season’s Shearsman readings at Swedenborg Hall Paul A. Green and Laurie Duggan read from their recently published volumes, The Gestaltbunker (Selected Poems 1965-2010) and The Pursuit of Happiness. Paul’s reading was edgy and exciting and promoted the aptness of the blurb comment about his briefings on nuclear apocalypse, global meltdown and ‘intensifying torsion of language.’ Gesticulating and shouting ‘Horus Promo’ Paul made words jump: this boy with a nose job keeps rapping / swing into hi-fi with hot wire-tapping / We heard it through the grapevine 

Laurie Duggan took us along ‘The London Road’: westward, / hands pull rope around a sheaf of / what? / wheat? asparagus? / Lamb’s Conduit / FOUNDED 1843 / old hinges of a / former door /painted over

Laurie’s dry wit, delivered as though the words had taken him by surprise, was caught in his short ‘Bin ends’:

       A salute to the Cambridge Marxists

If you’re not at the High Table / you’re not in the room

Robert Vas Dias was in the audience and I reminded him of the review of Paul Blackburn’s Journals he wrote for Peter Hodgkiss’s  Poetry Information 17, 1977, in which he had commented on the American poet’s method of taking a road ( ‘a direction and follow it where it leads’) where details are accumulated not for their own sake but ‘to reveal the state of mind’.

Both these books are available on the Shearsman website www.shearsman.com

The Pursuit Of Happiness and Others

Three splendid new publications which are worth looking out for:

 

Laurie Duggan’s new collection of poems from Shearsman, The Pursuit of Happiness, has just appeared and as Tony Baker’s comment on the back cover makes so clear these poems have the virtue of never abandoning the local. They shift from Robert Creeley, burgers and South African wine on Charing Cross Road to images of Santa Claus in Anglo-Greek Paphos and Japanese tourist signs in the countryside of Haworth.

 

Another distinctive voice from Australian poetry is Ken Bolton whose Selected Poems 1975-2010 has also just appeared from Shearsman: ‘slippery, rapid-fire conjunctions—from savage to deflationary, pathetic to hilarious…there’s a deeply serious–& flip, gauche, & witty & almost self-canceling—consciousness at work’.

 

Selected Letters of Michael Rumaker is an absolute delight from Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative. Under the general editorship of Ammiel Alcalay these finely produced chapbooks  illuminate unexplored terrain of an essential chapter of 20th-century life. In this one there are letters to Robert Creeley, Donald Allen and Charles Olson with many references to Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, and John Wieners alongside many others.

Laurie Duggan’s Allotments

Laurie Duggan’s Allotments

On Tuesday night in Darwin College, Canterbury, Laurie Duggan gave a poetry reading and I was struck time and again by that tone of voice which merges warmth and mischievous humour with an unflinching seriousness of concern with the human. He read from his recent publication Allotments, a little volume which I reviewed last November on Todd Swift’s EYEWEAR blogzine and also from his Shearsman collection, Crab & Winkle, the title of which is taken from the 1830 ‘Invicta’ locomotive which carried 300 excited passengers from Canterbury to Whitstable. Any temptation to see this poetry as ‘local’ is soon dispelled when you recognise that the range of literary reference throughout the sequences is enormous as the poet weaves from Charles Olson to Donald Allen, Rimbaud to Camus, Susan Howe to Philip Whalen and from Robert Frost to the sly brevity of ‘Allotment 9’ with its glance at Keats and Eliot:

the small gnats

have ceased to wail;

dogwood’s leaves lost

red branches bared

Allotments is published by Fewer & Further Press and the cover by Basil King links this little volume with the world of Andrew Crozier’s Ferry Press where the Black Mountain artist had done the cover for Stephen Jonas’s Transmutations in 1966. Duggan’s new volume of poems, The Pursuit of Happiness, will be available from Shearsman within the next couple of weeks.

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