This issue of Critical Survey seeks to affirm the importance of contemporary poetry. For poetry can make something ‘happen’ – in the sphere of intersubjective awareness, of intelligence, of general ideology. That is not ‘nothing’. As guest editor, I am grateful to academic colleagues and featured poets alike for making this edition possible. The focus here is on British poetry written by men. Although the articles do not engage directly with a recent interest in ‘Masculinities’, it is implicit that poetic exploration of what it is to be gendered male is an important issue.
Robin Skelton (1925–1997)
In the past few years a number of poets who were also selfless facilitators of poetry have died. George Macbeth and Eric Mottram in particular spring to mind. However, it is appropriate for this particular issue of Critical Survey to memorialise the author of Poetry, in the ‘Teach Yourself Books’ series (1963), and editor of the Penguin anthologies of 1930s and 1940s poetry. There was a time when every other issue of Critical Quarterly seemed to include poems by Robin Skelton. Robin, like Tony Harrison more recently, liked to define himself simply as ‘Poet’ (though he was a superb critic too). But he also had a missionary vision of a poetic Everyperson.
The Lost Leader; Group Disintegration, Transformation and Suspended Reconsolidation
King Lear (1605–6) is the primary enactment of psychic breakdown in English literary history. It constitutes, also, the most spectacular instance of a controlled explosion of the formal ‘container’ in Western drama – such that it not only violated whatever Aristotle or Boileau might have to offer on the proper structure of tragedy but provoked, too, the very different sensibilities of Dr Johnson and Count Tolstoy. Set in its raw pre-Christian world, the play remains the major Shakespearean rebuttal of Sophoclean fearful symmetry (Oedipus Rex) – corrosive in its existential negativity, yet paradoxically fructive in spawning such twentieth-century ‘countertransferential’ progeny as George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame or Edward Bond’s Lear. Keats, on rereading it wrote about the ‘bitter-sweet’ of being ‘consumèd in the fire’, with all the intensity of one closely associated with ‘Consumption’.
Desire between Couple(t)s – a Counselling Intervention
I want, here, to focus on this originary motive for the poem, and to suggest ways in which it informs the poet’s larger purpose – to create a social poem which negotiates tensions within the age-old battle of the sexes. The finished masterpiece, I shall argue, has relevance not only to contemporary debates about the ideology of gender3 but, in particular, to the rise of our now-ubiquitous ‘counselling’ culture. For such a discussion it is important that the ‘Offence’ occurred within a tightly knit, ‘marginal’ group, and that the poetic strategy develops a phantasmagoric ‘interpretation’ of the incident, as a proto-Freudian6 narrative in which attentive intelligence has transformed the strength of Desire into mock-heroic sweet reason.
Aestheticising Place-Myth – A Mode of Containment? Well-In at Welwyn
The back cover of Glyn Maxwell’s first collection of poems, Tale of the Mayor’s Son (1990), has situated the writing in terms that subsequent reviewers have taken up: ‘Home is an English New Town, a Garden City, the strangest of ordinary places, providing a backdrop for much of Maxwell’s work as well as the images that govern it.’The ‘New Town’ is given specificity in ‘Garden City Quatrains’, from his third collection, Rest for the Wicked (1995), as Welwyn Garden
Anne Kelley, Dennis Brown, Leonora Nattrass, Fiona Ritchie and Lisa Hopkins
Readings in Renaissance Women’s Drama: Criticism, History, and Performance 1594–1998 edited by S. P. Cerasano and Marion Wynne-Davies (London: Routledge, 1998) ISBN 0–415–16443–5 paperback £14.99, ISBN 0–415–16442–7 hardback £45.00
Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Reading by Mary Jacobus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) ISBN 0–19–818434–4 hardback £25.00
Charlotte Smith: A Critical Biography by Loraine Fletcher (London: Macmillan, 1998) ISBN 0333678451 hardback £47.50
Ireland in Proximity: History, Gender, Space Edited by Scott Brewster, Virginia Crossman, Fiona Becket and David Alderson (London: Routledge, 1999) ISBN 0 415 18958 6 paperback £14.99
Repositioning Shakespeare: National Formations, Postcolonial Aspirations Thomas Cartelli (London: Routledge, 1999) ISBN 0–415–19134–3 hardback £50.00, 0–415–19498–9 paperback £15.99
Dennis Brown, Anna Birch, Eibhlín Evans and Andrew Maunder
Wyndham Lewis: Painter and Writer Paul Edwards (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), ISBN 0–300–08209–6, hardback £40
The Routledge Reader in Politics and Performance, edited by Lizbeth Goodman with Jane de Gay (London: Routledge, 2000), ISBN 0–415–17473–2 paperback £15.99
Seamus Heaney Andrew Murphy (Tavistock: Northcote House, 1996, 2nd Edition, 2000). ISBN 0 7463 09627 paperback £8.99
Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley E. J. Clery (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2000), ISBN 0 7463 0872 8 paperback £9.99
Suzanne W. Jones, Sharon Monteith, Rosalind Poppleton-Pritchard, John Place, Kate Fullbrook, Dennis Brown and Brenda McKay
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy by Annette Gordon-Reed. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1998. paper ISBN 0-8139-1833-2.
Fictions of Labor: William Faulkner and the South’s Long Revolution by Richard Godden, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 288. ISBN 0521- 56142-6 (hardback), £37.50.
The Green Breast of the New World: Landscape, Gender, and American Fiction, by Louise H. Westling. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8203-2080-3. paper £14.50.
Inventing Southern Literature, by Michael Kreyling. Jackson: Univ. of Mississippi Press, 1998, Pp. xviii + 200. $17.00. ISBN 1-57806-045-1.
Dixie Debates: Perspectives on Southern Cultures Richard H. King and Helen Taylor, Eds. London: Pluto Press, 1996. Pp. xii, 242, ISBN 0 7453 0958 5 (HB), 0 7453 0957 7 (PB).
Literature, by PeterWiddowson. Routledge £8.99 ISBN 0-415-16914-3
The Feminine Political Novel in Victorian England, by Barbara Leah Harman. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1998. ISBN 0-8139-1772-7.
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
Stephen Benson, Dennis Brown, Daniela Caselli, Philip Griffin, Margaret Rose Jaster and Stephen Wade
Notes on contributors