In 1989 Tom Raworth commented on the focus of his poetry: ‘At the back there is always the hope that there are other people … other minds, who will recognise something that they thought was to one side or not real. I hope that my poems will show them that it is real, that it does exist.’ This article will tease out the implications of this attitude, in terms of Raworth’s poems, but also in terms of a wider poetics of an alternative British poetry. Raworth was part of the growth of an experimental British poetry during the 1960s, and he joins company with Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Bob Cobbing and JH Prynne as an important figure in what Eric Mottram called The British Poetry Revival. Raworth’s early poems followed the dictum of Charles Olson’s projectivism that ‘ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION’, without reflection, qualification or discrimination, although Raworth’s effects were often comic and surreal. The presentation of sharp detail and rapid re-location of point of view created indeterminate lyrics and fictions. Throughout the decade improvisatory intuition was pitched against a supposedly reductive intellection.
The Saying and the Said in the Linguistically Innovative Poetry of Tom Raworth
In his famous poem “Mending Wall” Robert Frost’s narrator builds, alongside his neighbour, a stone wall that divides their respective lands (Frost 1947: 47-8). The narrator can see this joint activity as no more than a “kind of out-door game” for, “There where it is we do not need the wall” and he wonders, “What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence”. His taciturn neighbour can only repeat his own father’s thought that “Good fences make good neighbours”.
The Case of British Jewish Poetry
This article discusses a corpus of work which constitutes British Jewish poetry and stands as a paradigm of diasporic poetry. It focuses in particular on the work of Isaac Rosenberg and Jon Silkin, but also introduces my anthology of British Jewish poetry, Passionate Renewal: Jewish Poetry in Britain since 1945 (2001). Further, the article theorizes the components of diasporic poetry, comprising in effect a diasporic poetics. It shows how British Jewish diasporic poetry and diasporic poetics together suggest a diasporic poetic praxis. A poem entitled 'Another Expulsion of European Jews', which appeared in my collection Senseless Hours (2009), concludes the article as an example of such synthesizing praxis.
Shakespeare and the Canon
The literary canon is commonly thought of as ancient, accepted and agreed, and consistent between high and popular cultures. This article demonstrates the falsity of these assumptions, and argues that the canon is always provisional, contingent, iterable and overdetermined by multiple consequences of cultural struggle. Using definitions of canonicity from Harold Bloom, Frank Kermode and Pierre Bourdieu, the article shows how the canon is produced, consumed and reproduced. Picking up on Harold Bloom's use of a poem by Wallace Stevens, the article explores the impact of Arabic adaptations of Shakespeare on canon formation and canonicity.
Jews and Poetry
Asked who has been Britain’s best-selling Jewish poet people might come up with Dannie Abse, or Elaine Feinstein, or, wondering if the question inferred long-dead poets, Amy Levy. None of these … she was born in Nottingham and she wrote poems about fairies. Remember the line ‘There are fairies at the bottom of our garden …’. Britain’s best-selling Jewish poet was the late Rose Fyleman, whose work still has a half-life on Internet sites about fairies. There was no particular Jewish content to her work which immediately begs the question as to what Jewish poetry, as opposed to poetry written by Jews, might be.
Markku Lehmuskallio and Anastasia Lapsui in Siberia and the Circumpolar World
Starting with instructional films about Finnish forestry in the 1970s, Markku Lehmuskallio has taken his cinematic vision progressively northward. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Leh mus kallio started intensive work among the Nenets, ultimately collaborating with Anastasia Lapsui to make remarkable “film poems“ among northern peoples at the edges of the world. Perhaps most impressive of their extensive Giron Film productions are the awardwinning Seven Songs of the Tundra (2000) and Earth Evocation (2009). This review essay focuses on their methods of representation of northern, native peoples over the course of their filmmaking career.
A is for Matthew ARNOLD, bringer of sweetness and light, upholder of the best that has been thought and said. (Notions much derided of late. All the more reason to defend them.) A poet-polemicist Oxford dandy turned Schools Inspector who didn’t just emit steam but suited action to word out in the big wide world. My favourite Victorian prophet, along with Mill, better company than Ruskin and bellicose Carlyle. Also for AL ALVAREZ, top gun of the sixties, who tried to shoot down English gentility. Good nose for a certain kind of poem, bad reasons for promoting it. Also for ACADEMIC. Pause. ‘Nuff said.
Michael Murphy, David Belbin, Dennis Brown, David C. Green, and Matthew Steggle
The Iron-Blue Vault: Selected Poems by Attila József. Translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner (Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 1999), ISBN 1-85224-503-4 £8.95
Fallen among Scribes: Conversations with Novelists, Poets, Critics. David Gerard (Wilmslow: Elvet Press, 1998), ISBN 0951077686 £7.50
Breaking Enmities: Religion, Literature and Culture in Northern Ireland, 1967–97. Patrick Grant (London: Macmillan, 1999), ISBN 0-333-69829-0, Hardback £45
The Holocaust and the Text: Speaking the Unspeakable. Edited by A. Leak and G. Paizis (London: Macmillan, 2000), ISBN 0-333-73887-X, £15.99
Introduction to Renaissance English Comedy. Alexander Leggatt (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), ISBN 0-7190-4965-2, Paperback £9.99
On Discovering Poems in Istanbul, Sarajevo, and Bratislava
This article discusses how poetry allowed a first-time traveler to three different cities to explore each place and his identity as a traveler. Focusing on Istanbul, Sarajevo, and Bratislava, the article describes the experience of using a poem the traveler finds in each city to serve as a guide to its spirit. By referring to issues related to anthropology, post-colonialism, politics, history, the social sciences, and cultural studies, this article discusses the transformation experienced by the traveler as a result of both a physical and inner journey.
Philip Larkin, Humanism and Class
‘All is not dead’ originates from a lesser-known sonnet printed in Larkin’s Collected Poems, entitled ‘A slight relax of air where cold was’. The reason behind the poet’s refusal to print it in an individual collection is indicated by his comment in the margin of the manuscript version: ‘Look at Keats silly old fool’ (MS 6, 7.i.62). Despite Larkin’s harsh evaluation of its literary value when contrasted with a ‘master’ sonneteer, it deserves citing in full, since it illustrates both the critical debates that now surround his work, and my argument that he struggles with humanism in a post-war context