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Tag Archives: Tim Longville

The Draft Will by Peter Robinson (Isobar Press)

The Draft Will by Peter Robinson (Isobar Press)

In ‘A Performing Art’, one of the short pieces of discursive writing from the last section of this collection of anecdotes, reminiscences and prose poems, Peter Robinson quotes from a postcard written in February 1934 by Ezra Pound to Mary Barnard:

‘Thing is to cut a shape in time. Sounds that stop the flow, and durations either of the syllables, or implied between them, “forced onto the voice” of the reader by nature of the “verse”’

The context for Robinson’s quotation is the world of the ‘Poetry Reading’ and he highlights the Cambridge International Poetry Festival which was held every two years between 1975 and 1985. He cuts his own shapes in time by giving us clarity, sharp outlines:

‘I can still quite clearly picture Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the third festival in June 1979 on stage in the darkened Corn Exchange at Cambridge. He was reading from his poem The Sinking of the Titanic in German and his own English translation. Enzensberger’s face was extremely mobile: ingenuousness, sarcasm, disgust and pity passed across his features as he read. He had been in Italy and was wearing a white summer suit that seemed slightly luminous under the spotlights. When he reached the end of the poem where imaginary and symbolic passengers are swimming away from the ship, Enzensberger seemed to have turned the darkness of the Corn Exchange into an Atlantic Ocean.’

Timing and presentation! Atmosphere and an awareness of the power of what you are reading! Shades of Basil Bunting’s ‘Villon’:

‘precision clarifying vagueness;
boundary to a wilderness
of detail; chisel voice
smoothing the flanks of noise’

In the previously unpublished autobiographical sketch, ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ (composed for the centenary of Linacre Infants and Junior School), there is a moving sense of attempting to give formal boundaries to a past long gone. The formality of the reconstruction is there in the precision:

‘There were two playgrounds, divided by a wall. The one on the left, if you were facing towards the Mersey, was for the Infants; the larger one on the right, for the Juniors.’

With the introduction of a class photograph, ‘a black and white class photo that lay around unconsidered in my parents’ house for years and years’, the past tense becomes the present tense as a long-gone world is brought back into focus. This is the way with photographs: they can make you realise that there are things you know that you didn’t know you knew! Names of people unmet for sixty years emerge out of a darkness:

‘On my immediate left in the photograph is Barbara Penny. On the other side of her is Colin Wells. On the back row, three from the left is Billy Morrison. When the school’s centenary was announced in Liverpool, with a call for memories and memorabilia, Billy heard about it from his family, found me on the Internet, and sent a message from British Columbia, in which he added some more names to the faces.’

Prompted by the catalyst, the photograph, ‘It comes back to me as I write that we learned how to tell the time in this class’ and Ray Charles’ song ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ emerges from being a US number one and a UK number 6 hit in 1961 to the fore of the author’s mind:

‘I can recall clearly standing on the asphalt of the playground of the Junior School at about home time thinking it would certainly hurt if you hit the road, and wondering why Jack would want to do it anyway.’

A few days ago Jeremy Prynne said to me ‘You know, Ian, I borrowed a line from Tim Longville’s last poem in his collection Familiarities for one of my poems.’ The words borrowed, ‘then back’, come from Longville’s ‘Back Out’ (1967) and they emerge, repeated, in one of the poems from Her Weasels Wild Returning (1994). When I mentioned this to Longville he replied ‘at Spartylea, I encouraged and led group-chantings of that little piece, in an exaggeratedly rhythmic cod-Northern-style—chantings in which, improbable though it may seem, Jeremy was an enthusiastic participant. Those occasions, and hence that poem, may well have stuck in his mind. So much, after all, does.’ In Peter Robinson’s delightful little vignette Jack may well ‘hit the road’ but he most certainly does come back.

This book of thoughts and recollections is another of those most handsome publications given to us by Paul Rossiter’s Isobar Press (available from London Review Bookshop) and, needless to add, it is well-worth getting hold of. Not least for the deeply moving account of the events surrounding the author’s discovery he was suffering from a brain tumour, and how after its removal he was able to return to his teaching in Japan.

An earlier quotation from that Pound postcard reads ‘Precision in KNOWING how long the different notes take in a given place’. Peter Robinson’s delicate care in his writing gives us that precision in KNOWING.

Ian Brinton 29th November 2015

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A talk given at the Cambridge University Library to highlight the new venture of a Modern Poetry Archive dealing with ‘Cambridge poets and their papers’.

A talk given at the Cambridge University Library to highlight the new venture of a Modern Poetry Archive dealing with ‘Cambridge poets and their papers’.

I

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My talk here today revolves around the very particular case of the acquisition of Archive material of the poet, translator and publisher John Riley and I hope to share with you a sense of the intricate pathways down which one might expect to proceed in pursuit of the past. I say in pursuit of the past quite deliberately because when one reads the correspondence of a group of friends who were up at Cambridge at roughly the same time in the early 1960s there is an intimacy of communication which seems to place flesh upon the dry bones of biographical history which is a little akin to the world of the French Historical school, Annales. When one reads such immediate accounts of thoughts and events put down on paper, in a pre-electronic age, to be sent between friends who had gone different professional ways after leaving university and who now lived in different parts of the country,  it is as though the vividness of that past possesses a moment of risplende: it shines. In order to get the context in place it is necessary to say a few words of biographical detail concerning not only John Riley but also two of his particular friends, Tim Longville and Michael Grant.

John Riley was born in Leeds in 1937 and after doing A levels was called up for National Service, joining the Royal Air Force in 1956. It was during this period, some of which he spent in Germany, that he learned Russian. In 1958 he went to Pembroke College to read English, graduating in 1961. It was at Pembroke that he met Tim Longville who was also reading English and with whom he was to found the Grosseteste Press in 1966 and Grosseteste Review, the first issue of which appeared early in 1968. After leaving Cambridge John taught in primary schools in and around the Cambridge area before moving to Bicester, near Oxford. His first book of poems, Ancient and Modern, was published by Grosseteste in 1967. Some of these poems had already appeared in The English Intelligencer, the privately circulated poetry worksheet which ran over three series comprising nearly forty individual issues from January 1966 to April 1968 and which had been started by Andrew Crozier and J.H. Prynne. Crozier, a graduate from Christ’s College, had recently returned from SUNY where he had been studying under Charles Olson and was about to join the newly-founded English department at the University of Essex, at the invitation of Donald Davie. Prynne was, of course, a Fellow of Caius.

The rest of this talk can be found on Ian Brinton’s Academia.edu account and in the Notes section of this Tears website.

 

Ian Brinton, February 2014.

 

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.

 

 

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